Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Complete Horrors

Today's mail brought me the last of the missing volumes for my set of the DAW Year's Best Horror Stories anthologies. I now possess all the volumes edited by Karl Edward Wagner and the few that preceded his editorship. I have been steadily working my way through the books since receiving an almost complete set as a gift a few weeks back. I'll blog more about the contents later on. I was only missing a few volumes and a little time at Amazon allowed me to find the remaining books. So now, the Horrors are complete.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Ring of Thoth (Amon?)

The other day I was flipping through some anthologies of horror stories and I came upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Ring of Thoth. This story is generally considered the primary influence for the 1932 horror film, The Mummy, but as I gave it a re-read I began to wonder if it might also have been influential in Robert E. Howard's creation of the Stygian sorcerer Thoth-Amon who appears in the first Conan story The Phoenix on the Sword.
The name Thoth is the main tip off of course, but there's another possible connection. When we first encounter Thoth-Amon, the once mighty sorcerer has lost a ring which held much of his sorcerous power and is now a slave, though actively searching for his ring. In Doyle's story, the 4000 year old Egyptian Sosra is working as a lowly attendant in the Louvre while he seeks a lost ring which contains the power to end his artificially extended life. It's not a close parallel, but it is suggestive.
So once again I went back to the inestimable REH Bookshelf at Rehupa, and checked the listing for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. REH owned three volumes of the Conan Doyle's Best Books series including one which contained The Ring of Thoth. So it's likely that he read the story. (Howard's library contained a lot of Conan Doyle's work, which as a Sherlockian, always makes me happy.)
I also wonder if The Ring of Thoth might have been an influence on the titular character in Skull Face, who while based primarily on Fu Manchu, is an ancient and mummy-like being. Sosra has a face like parchment and strange eyes in deep sockets. Someone points out that Sosra's features aren't like those of modern men, a trait that Kathulos shares. There are a couple of other sorcerers in the works of REH who have mummy-like characteristics as well.
Anyway, it's always fun to speculate on the antecedents of an author's work. No one works in a vacuum and all writers are influenced by what they read. Of course, as others have pointed out, no matter what Howard borrowed, he always made it uniquely his own by the sheer force of his writing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Traveller's Rest

I just read a creepy little novella by James Enge featuring his protagonist Morlock Ambrosius over at the Pyr books blog. You can download it as an e-pub or just do as I did and read it in regular text. I've reviewed Enge's books about Morlock here at the blog. My favorite is This Crooked Way but I also really liked The Wolf Age.
In Traveller's Rest, Morlock and his sidekick/apprentice Wyrth stop off at an inn in a strangely empty town. They soon find out why the place is so sparsely populated. There are swords and sorcery and monsters, and some of Enge's trademark dark humor. I can't say much about the fate of the missing townspeople without spoilers but it's rather disturbing.
Anyway, this is a great chance to check out Enge's work. There are a couple of other free stories by Enge at the site and if you enjoy them, be sure and pick up his novels about Morlock. This is sword & sorcery closer to Fritz Leiber than Robert E. Howard. It has a bit of a Jack Vance feel as well. I like Enge a lot. Here's the link:

http://pyrsamples.blogspot.com/2010/12/travellers-rest-by-james-enge.html

Lord of the Rings Online

One of the things people ask me about the MMORPG Lord of the Rings Online is how does it relate to the books? Like, do you meet Gandalf or Legolas? Can you fight Nazgul? Is it a sequel? A prequel? That sort of thing. The storyline of the game parallels the plot of the books. In other words, your adventures take place at the same time that the war of the ring is going on.
When you start the game, you'll run into Gandalf and Strider in Bree before the Black Riders have come looking for the hobbits. After that your path will cross the fellowship time and again. You'll meet the whole crew later in Rivendell before they start on their journey to destroy the One Ring. (There's actually an instance where you watch the nine walkers leaving Rivendell. As a long time LotR fan, this was oddly moving.) You'll go on missions for Elrond. You'll team with Legolas and Gimli for combat instances. When you get to Moria, you'll eventually find the shattered bridge of Kazad Dum, so you know that Gandalf has fallen into shadow.
Right now the most recent run in with the Fellowship is in Lothlorien at the pavilion where they are resting following their escape from Moria. (Aragorn remembered Kharrn and welcomed him to Lorien.) So we're not far from the breaking of the Fellowship. I've been playing LOTRO for three years now, so you can see that we haven't quite reached the end of The Fellowship of the Ring in terms of game time. Presumably the Fall update for the game will take us to Isengard. I wonder if we'll get to meet Saruman?
Anyway, I doubt that any other MMORPG could have held my attention this long. I think it is a mix of a well done game and my love for the source material. It ain't perfect. There are glaring departures from the lore of the books and many creatures and such that aren't cannon, but still there's a lot of stuff that the game gets more accurately then the movies did. Now if we can just get to Rohan. Vikings with horses. I am so there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cats

So I was sitting on the floor, reading, and I had a big cup of ice water beside me, and as I'm reading along I hear this noise.

"slurp,slurp,slurp,slurp"

I looked over and there was Amelia with her entire head in my cup, drinking my ice water.

Cats.

Let's Kill Ames

Of the 181 Doc Savage novels printed in Doc Savage magazine from 1933 to 1949, all but five were written in the third person. For some reason, a new editor requested that primary Doc writer Lester Dent write the May-June 1947 issue of Doc Savage in first person singular. Four others followed. I reviewed one of those five, No Light to Die By, last year. During the long weekend I read another first person Doc, Let's Kill Ames.
The titular Ames is a beautiful con-artist, Miss Travice Ames. She's down on her luck as the story begins, having been locked out of her hotel room minus her possessions and having just had her car repossessed. When she stumbles onto an extortion plot involving three wealthy men, she decides to see if she can play all sides against one another and come out with a hefty chunk of cash. But things turn deadly and she makes a call to the office of Doc Savage, thinking that she'll be able to con the Man of Bronze as she has so many other men. Big mistake.
What struck me about this one is that Dent took the opportunity of being able to write outside the standard Doc formula (which he invented more or less) and make this a character study of a woman gone wrong. Ames is smart and brave, but almost completely amoral. When the short novel was over, I still wanted to know more about the character. Doc shows up and does the stuff that Doc does, but this is Ames' show all the way.
I halfway expected Miss Ames to do what so many other bad girls have done in the Doc Savage stories and fall for the Man of Bronze and give up her evil ways. But no. Ames is impressed by Doc, then frustrated that she can't control him with her looks, but when the story ends, she's still a con artist, albeit one who won't ever tangle with Doc Savage again. In some ways it was refreshing to see a female criminal who didn't turn out to have a heart of gold.
Anyway, I've got three first person Doc Savage stories to go. Been kind of spacing them out. All five of these anomalies were collected in the 1988 Doc Savage Omnibus #5, but if you don't want to track that down, Let's Kill Ames is about to be reprinted in Sanctum Books excellent Doc Savage reprint series. Issue 47 should be out this month and it contains Let's Kill Ames and two other short Doc novels, these two more typical third person stories.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Impossible Astronaut


No way I can avoid spoilers on this one, kids, so if you're planning to watch Doctor Who, skip this post. Okay, out of the gate let me say that the first episode of the new series lived up to my expectations. I really enjoyed it.
But...
The big pre-televising thing was that one of the major characters would die. Producer Stephen Moffat said that it would be a real death. Not a trick. A little Sherlock Holmes style ratiocination told me that it would be one of two characters. Either Rory would buy the farm because we don't really need him and because we know how River Song dies already, (Silence in the Library) or Moffat is lying and he'll kill The Doctor in some way that allows him to get around it. Bingo for choice two. A future version of The Doctor, three hundred years older than 'our' Doctor is killed. Now I'm sure Moffat is saying "It's really the Doctor and he really was killed" but sorry Steve, it's still a trick. And you'll have to reverse it when Matt Smith inevitably regenerates into another actor if not (more likely) before. Another actor can never be the Doctor if this version was really killed.
Here's another spoiler. If you looked close you may have noticed that the hardware in the underground alien lab was the same as that which appeared in last year's episode The Lodger, when the Doctor notes that someone is "trying to build a TARDIS." Very interesting.
The new aliens, The Silence, probably gave a lot of kids nightmares last night. They are seriously creepy. And they have a nifty Moffat style trait. Once you're not looking at them, you forget they exist.
Anyway, still liking Matt Smith's take on The Doctor a bunch. And I'm glad Rory is still alive. I like Rory. Next week is part two. Can't wait to see how things turn out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Missing Harlan Ellison

I'm not sure how this chain of events got started but I'm back to reading Harlan Ellison this week. Seems like last Wednesday I mentioned him in relation to his 'Pay the Writer' rant and then I ended up quoting him in an online discussion about critics who don't know what they're talking about, and then almost as if by fate, the next volume of The Year's Best Horror Stories I opened had a particularly creepy Ellison story in it, and that made me want to read more Ellison so I ended up ordering Ellison's book, Stalking the Nightmare, and then today I went into Barnes & Noble to perhaps buy an Ellison collection and good old B&n didn't have a single Harlan Ellison book in the whole store.
Not keep in mind, this is Barnes & Noble, the McDonald's of chain bookstores, but I know that there are Ellison books in print and you'd think that B&N would stock at least a couple just to have a well stocked SF section. Apparently not. Borders would have had one of two, but they are gone.
Anyway, the guy at the information desk agreed with me that it was a shame and a crime, so there ya go. Guess I'll go browse Amazon...

Four Day Weekend

It is 6:13 am as I type this. I've been up about an hour. I don't have to go to work today, but as usual I've had no luck sleeping late, partly because I just don't sleep that much and partly because the cats keep bothering me. Anyway, I have today and tomorrow off so it's a four day weekend for me. I plan to do some writing and some reading and some gaming. I might do one or two constructive things but that remains to be seen.
I didn't have anything that I wanted for breakfast, so I went out to Starbucks and got a large black coffee and a cheese danish. We had some serious thunderstorms last night, making for a cool morning and I have all the windows open, airing out the apartment. There's a nifty breeze blowing through. As mornings go, this is pretty darn good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Farewell Sarah Jane


Out of the blue I learned just a few minutes ago that actress Elizabeth Sladen, Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who, has passed away today at age 63. She had apparently been battling cancer for some time. If you're a fan of the original series of Doctor Who, Sladen began her time on the show with the third Doctor, John Pertwee, but really hit her stride as companion to the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. More recently she appeared in season two of the revived Doctor Who, reprising her role as reporter Sarah Jane Smith. This led to a spin off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, where she battled mostly earthbound threats to the galaxy. I wasn't aware of her struggle with cancer, so I was somewhat stunned by the news of her death.
Sarah Jane was my favorite companion from the classic Doctor Who years, and I really enjoyed her new series and her appearances on the new Doctor Who. Elizabeth Sladen was a lovely, charming woman who brought a great deal of vivacious character to every show she appeared in. She'll be missed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stories of Darkness and Dread

One of the problems of collecting a particular author's work, especially if that author wrote a lot of short stories, is that those stories are often spread among a vast number of books, magazines, and collections, and there is usually some overlap of the contents of said publications, meaning that inevitably some duplication occurs. This was a real problem back in the 1970s when everybody and his brother was putting out collections of the works of Robert E. Howard. For example, you might find that in a new paperback, containing 12 stories, as many as half of those stories might be ones you already had in other books.
Recently I've begun to run into that issue while amassing the stories of Joseph Payne Brennan. Brennan was a late comer to Weird Tales, just managing to leap in toward the end of the run of that venerable publication and to turn out some truly inspired bits of horror fiction. I have referred to Brennan before as the best horror writer you never heard of, but aficionados of the genre certainly know who he is, and he counts among the people his writing influenced horror heavy-weights like Stephen King and Karl Edward Wagner.
My interest in Brennan was sparked by remarks about his work made by folks at the Karl Edward Wagner Yahoo Group a couple of years ago and I began seeking out his stories. I immediately found a copy of the 1980 collection The Shapes of Midnight and a paperback reprint of the 1958 Arkham House collection Nine Horrors and a Dream. There were a couple of duplications right off the bat. Both of these collections featured 'Slime' and 'Canavan's Back Yard.' This isn't surprising, since these are two of Brennan's most famous stories.
Not surprisingly those two stories would also pop up in a 2008 collection from small publisher Midnight House. This volume, titled The Feaster from Afar, is the first of a projected four volume set, which would collect all of Brennan's supernatural fiction. However, since the first volume came out four years ago now and there's no sign of volume two, I'm not going to stop hunting Brennan's fiction in other places.
Which brings us to my most recent acquisition, a small 1973 volume from Arkham House called Stories of Darkness and Dread. This one contains 18 stories, 10 of which are not in any of the above mentioned collections. There were eight duplications, but hey, ten JPB stories are certainly worth what I paid for the book, and if Midnight House ever does actually bring out their other three volumes, well one can never go wrong with an old Arkham House book. Besides, in the days since I bought Nine Horrors and a Dream and The Shapes of Midnight, both of those books have skyrocketed in cost. I'm fortunate in that I often seem to be just ahead of the curve when an author suddenly becomes collectible again.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to dipping back into the creepy world of Joseph Payne Brennan, though I'm going to try and hold off until fall when Halloween comes around again. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bag End II


And a nice shot from the outside.

Bag End


Watching Peter Jackson's first video blog about the filming of The Hobbit made me want to visit some of the locations from the book in Lord of the Rings online. Here's Kharrn and his hobbit sidekick Briefer in Bilbo Baggins' study in Bag End. You can see how big the place is looking out the door into the hallway. There's a kitchen and a dining room and all kinds of other rooms. A nicely realized setting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Thoughts on the Upcoming Conan Movie

"Also, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Conan film? Excited? Dismissive?"

In a comment to one of my earlier posts, my friend Rachel asked me what my thoughts were on the upcoming Conan movie. I started writing a reply and realized it was going to be fairly long so I decided to go ahead and write my reply as a post. So here we go.
I try my best not to be one of those people who passes judgment on a movie before I see it. As Sherlock Holmes has noted, "It is a capital mistake to speculate before the facts." However, in the case of the upcoming Conan the Barbarian film I am in possession of sufficient facts, including plot elements and character descriptions, to know that this film is not going to be about Robert E. Howard's Conan. That disappoints me, as I am not only a fan of the Character Conan, but of his creator's writing, so the farther something strays from Howard's vision of Conan, the less I'm likely to like it.
That said, I should point out that I really liked Michael Bassett's Solomon Kane film. I didn't feel that it was a good take on REH's character, but I did think it a good sword & sorcery movie. So, you never know. I might like Conan as a movie, but still be displeased by its lack of adherence to the source material.
The funny thing is, as a major fan of Howard and Conan, but also as (hopefully) a thinking, reasoning, open minded human being, I have given considerable thought to other folks takes on a Conan film and I have come to the conclusion that there are mass amounts of people to who adherence to the source material means absolutely nothing. For instance I know that there is a large part of the public who ONLY know Conan from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and they are just as rabid about that film as I am about the works of Robert E. Howard. These folks are positively apoplectic about someone else being cast as Conan and are filling the internet with hate for the new movie because 'No one but Arnold is Conan."
Now as I have stated before, I absolutely hate the original Conan the Barbarian film. It has virtually nothing to do with Robert E. Howard's character, and I also don't enjoy it as a sword & sorcery movie. But, I realize that this is just my opinion. I don't say it's a bad movie. I just say I hate it. Your mileage may vary.
Then there are the folks who see Conan more as a media character, like Spiderman or Batman. These folks, who grew up on Conan as a character in Comic Books, TV Shows, Video Games, Choose Your Own Adventure books, a Saturday Morning Cartoon, and a plethora of Conan pastiche novels of varying quality, don't think of Conan as the creation of one man, but rather as a character who has always existed in different forms and therefore has no definitive version. So I can imagine why they scratch their heads when I get bent out of shape because the new movie Conan won't be true to the original version. These folks don't know from Robert E. Howard.
In some ways it's similar to the way I've always viewed Tarzan. To most of the public, the whole "Me Tarzan. You Jane." thing is Tarzan. The Johnny Weissmuller movies with their monosyllabic ape-man living in a tree house have become the general idea of Tarzan. Never mind that Tarzan's creator wrote two dozen novels about the character in which the ape-man spoke not only perfect English, but French and several other languages as well, and often lived in an estate in England when he wasn't in the jungle. The movie Greystoke was a little better but Weissmuller has proved hard to displace.
At the moment, the greater public perception of Conan is Arnold Schwarzenegger. If someone sees me reading a Conan book (and by that I mean one of the collections of REH stories) they will invariably launch into a bad impression of Arnie, thinking this will please me, because that's all they know of Conan. (After which I usually show them that my Arnie impression is much better. heh!)
So what does that mean as far as the new movie goes? Well there are a couple of possibilities. The movie could do really well, and then Jason Momoa would be the new public perception of Conan and I still wouldn't have a Robert E. Howard Conan movie. Or the movie could do really badly and the Arnold film would then be considered the good version by the general public and I still wouldn't have a Robert E. Howard Conan movie. That doesn't play out well either way for a REH fan.
But, as I noted above, if I at least like the movie as a movie, that would be nice. Also, if the film does well, the producers have made a few noises about actually adapting a Robert E. Howard story for the sequel. They did bring in someone for a rewrite on the current film to shoehorn some REH dialog into the movie, so they're not completely unaware of the REH fan base.
On a positive note, star Jason Momoa does look more like REH's idea of Conan. In Howard's stories, Conan's speed and agility are described as often as his muscles are noted. He's a big guy but also lithe and quick. Not a body builder type. And Momoa's hair, if not a "square cut black mane" is at least darker than Arnie's. Theoretically they're even making Momoa's eyes blue in post production, but I'll believe that when I see it.
So anyway, Rachel, those are my current thoughts. I'm not terribly optimistic, but I'm willing to give the movie a chance as a movie just as I did with Solomon Kane.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Legend of the DeathWalker


I have often wondered if David Gemmell regretted killing off his hero Druss in Gemmell's first published novel, Legend. Probably not, as the structure of the book required the death of the hero, and Druss was at a fairly advanced age in that book which would have made sequels difficult. Also, it was probably Druss's sacrifice that made the book what it was and made Gemmell's career.
Still, Gemmell would bring back Druss time and again in a number of prequels and would even raise him from the dead in one novel. Hard to keep a born fighter like Druss down, I guess.
This weekend I was re-reading one of the prequels, The Legend of the DeathWalker, which takes place when Druss was thirty years old and probably the mightiest man in the Drenai lands. In one of those odd quirks of fate, I purchased my first copy of this book before it was available in America. I had read The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend just before a trip to the United Kingdom and I bought Deathwalker in the famous Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford, where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to shop for books. Gemmell had just started to 'hit' in the US and many of his books weren't available over here. I stocked up while I was in the UK. Sadly I loaned that copy out and never got it back, but my Del Rey paperback is certainly serviceable. I read the original, though, on the flight back from England, and it more than held my attention all the way across the pond.
In this one, the mighty Druss is participating in a series of games sort of like the Olympics. He's a bare-knuckle fighter and he's only in the games because he broke the jaw of the Drenai champion during a sparring match and felt obliged to take his place. Druss has fought his way to the final match, but his worthy opponent is stricken down by a poisoned crossbow bolt meant for Druss and the man's only hope are two mystic jewels called The Eyes of Alchazzar, reputedly hidden in an ancient shrine, and supposed to possess healing properties.
Along with his friend, the poet Sieban, Druss goes searching for the jewels. What Druss doesn't know is, Garen-Tsen the true power behind the mad 'God-King' of the Gothir also covets the gems and he's willing to expend a force of 5000 men to get them. It will fall to Druss and a rag tag group of warriors to hold the ruined shrine against impossible odds. However, readers of Druss know that, much like Han Solo, you never tell Druss the Odds.
This is one of Gemmell's most action packed novels, and if you know Gemmell that's saying something. Re-reading it I was reminded once again of why I like the character of Druss so much. He's just a decent man, trying to do the right thing no matter what it costs him. And of course he's hell on wheels in a fight. Gemmell wrote some of the best fight scenes in the heroic fantasy field.
Gemmell was also one of the few fantasy writers whose work was closer in spirit to sword & sorcery than epic fantasy, so his death at the age of 58 was a major loss to those of us who love fantasy with an edge to it. He left behind a lot of books, most worth reading more than once.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Not What I Appear to Be


You would not believe the attention I got running around Lord of the Rings Online in this get up, especially after I set off Fireworks in front of the Prancing Pony. I think a lot of players thought I was a Dev. Everyone was bowing and waving and cheering. Gandalf is very very popular.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Conan and the Damned Thing


Toward the end of his second run on Marvel Comics' Savage Sword of Conan magazine, writer Roy Thomas adapted several stories not written by Robert E. Howard into Conan stories. This wasn't exactly a new thing for Thomas, who had used stories and books by Norvell Page and Gardner Fox as fodder for his story mill during his original run on the Marvel Conan color series, but those tales had protagonists who were much like Conan (page's Wan Tengri) or even knock-offs of the big Cimmerian (Fox's Kothar) .
On his second turn at Conan, though, Thomas adapted some stories that had little or nothing to do with sword & sorcery, including a C.L. Moore Northwest Smith story and a Clark Ashton Smith horror yarn.
Thomas's strangest choice, to my mind at least, came in SSoC #227, when Roy adapted Ambrose Bierce's classic horror tale, The Damned Thing, into a Conan story.
You probably read The Damned Thing in school. Aside from An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge it is probably Bierce's most reprinted story. It begins in a courtroom where a man is giving testimony to a coroner's inquest about the mysterious death of another man. The two men were out hunting quail when they were attacked by a creature that they could not see. The invisible monster killed the man for whom the coroner's inquest was now assembled, tearing out his throat and breaking many of his bones. The survivor's theory that the "Damned Thing" as the dead man had called it, having apparently having run into the monster before, was a color that human eyes couldn't see.
The Conan story skips the inquest and moves right to the action as Conan comes across two poachers hunting in a forest. Just as in the Bierce story, the hunters are attacked by an invisible creature and one of them is killed. But of course, this being a Conan story, Conan has to get a shot at the monster and being Conan he finds a way to kill it. Thomas's version ends with Conan noting that the monster must have been a color that human eyes couldn't see.
Basically it's a good use of the story. Just strikes me as a bit odd that Thomas would use a famous bit of American literature as the basis for a Conan tale. If you haven't read Ambrose Bierce in a while, I recommend his tales of horror. I'm providing a link to an online text to The Damned Thing. If you want to read the Conan version, you're on your own.

http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/L_damned.htm

Separated at Birth?


Mike Hawthorne's Conan and my Lotro Avatar Kharrn.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Messages From Moorcock


After finally getting copies of the two limited edition Elric books, I had written Michael Moorcock, requesting bookplates so I could have his signature on the books. He prefers this to having books mailed to him for signing. Today Cliff emailed me to let me know I'd received a package from Michael Moorcock at Dr. No's. (Cliff lets me send packages to the store since there's always someone there to sign for them and since my local mail carrier lost a couple of books I'd ordered.) Needless to say I swung by the store on my way home from work.
To my surprise I found not two, but four bookplates in the envelope, all signed to Charles from Mike, with various messages and full signatures at the bottom. The plates themselves feature a James Cawthorn illustration of Elric. These are seriously nifty.
Of course now I have to decide what other two Moorcock books to put the extra bookplates in. I own a LOT of Moorcock books. I'm leaning toward Letters From Hollywood, since it's my favorite of Mike's non-fiction, and toward Doctor Who, The Coming of the Terraphiles, because Mike read my review of it and said I was spot on. I will now sit here with a stupid fan-boy smile on my face for a while. Thanks, Mike. You're a pal.

Wellman's Lonely Vigils


Last year I wrote about acquiring a collection of the horror short stories of Manly Wade Wellman called Worse Things Waiting. Of the four books published by the small publishing House Carcosa Press back in the 1980s, this was the book I wanted most. However, second on the list was a companion book containing all of Wellman's Occult Detective stories, titled Lonely Vigils.
Starting in 1938, Wellman wrote stories about three different protagonists who fought supernatural evil in contemporary times. All but one of these stories appeared in the shadow haunted pages of the great Weird Tales, home of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard. The exception was the single appearance of a character named Professor Nathan Enderby and that story appeared in Strange Tales, a rather unimaginatively named rival magazine.
The majority of the stories in Lonely Vigils feature John Thunstone, a burly expert on the occult who stood fast against supernatural menaces from the 1940s into the 1980s. (A new Thunstone story showed up in one of the Year's Best Horror collections I mentioned recently.) Four other stories feature a slightly less physically impressive hero, his honor Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant. Both of these men are armed with sword canes with silver in the blades. At one point Wellman said that the judge had passed his cane on to Thunstone, but later it was revealed that there were two such canes.
In the adventures of Pursuivant and Thunstone you'll meet all manner of supernatural creatures. Vampires, demons, vengeful ghosts. There are indeed many Lonely Vigils where the protagonist must keep watch late into the night for unholy things from the outer dark.
You'll also meet Manly Wade Wellman's own creations, the Shonokins, a pre-human race who resent mankind's supremacy on Earth and scheme to take the world back for their own. (The Shonokins would return to battle Wellman's later hero, John the Balladeer.) And then there's the evil wizard Rowley Thorne, based in part on real life occultist Aleister Crowley. These are amazingly good stories, and unfortunately, all the effort that editor Karl Edward Wagner expended to resurrect them in the 1980s has gone to naught, as once again Wellman's name has sunk from the public consciousness.
The book is made extra nifty by being illustrated by George Evans, one of the legendary EC Comics artists and a fine illustrator as well. The book contains a couple of dozen beautiful black and white illustrations and quite a few spot illos as well. I'm proud to note that my copy is signed by both the author and the artist.
Anyway, the two Wellman Carcosa books continue to climb in price and collectibility, so I'd been watching for a decent copy under a hundred bucks. Spotted one at Amazon Sunday and ordered it on the spot. The dust jacket is a little dinged, but the book itself is in great shape, which is what really matters. I don't spend a lot of time admiring dust jackets. This gives me two of the four Carcosa books. The other two contain the work of Hugh B. Cave and E. Hoffman Price respectively. I imagine I'll track them down, but I have the two I really wanted. Manly Wade Wellman has become one of my favorite writers, so I'm glad to have these two impressive collections of his work.
For more on Carcosa and Wellman, see my post from last year:

http://singular--points.blogspot.com/2010/06/waiting-for-worse-things.html

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spidey in the Snow


Some folks over at the Superhero Girl site were talking about snow in comics. I'm posting this nifty John Romita splash page as a nice example of artistic renditions of snow in Comics.

Revenge of Sword and Sandal Theater

Okay, just to drag the blog back into sword & sorcery territory, over at The Blog that Time Forgot a bunch of us were discussing the sword and sandal film, The Giant of Marathon, and that brought up Italian movie director Mario Bava who directed my favorite Sword & Sandal film, Hercules in the Haunted World.
Anyway, I've recently discovered the Peplum blog. (Sword and Sandal movies are also know as Peplums, because of the toga like outfit so many folks wear in the movies.)
This is the go-to blog for news and history of sword & sandal films. The blog author also has the best Youtube channel for Peplum fans. Tons of full length movies and interesting clips and stuff. (My favorite is a two part clip about the monsters of Peplum, featuring some imaginative pre-CGI creature effects. Some are goofy, but a couple are pretty impressive.)
Now he's also putting up sword & sandal comic books. I've been occasionally providing info about the artists of the strips in the comments, because, hey, I know a lot of otherwise useless information about comics. Anyway, if you enjoy these old movies, you definitely want to check this blog out. Link is here:

http://peplums.blogspot.com/

Counting the Days

You know, it's ridiculous how excited I am about the upcoming new season of Doctor Who. This is how I used to feel as a kid when I was waiting for some SF movie to come out or for the new issue of a favorite comic book. Just dying to see it. I almost never have that feeling anymore. There's just something about the series that catches my sense of wonder just right. Not sure how I feel about them splitting the season in two. (Half now, half in the fall.) But as writer/producer Steven Moffat pointed out, that means you're never more than seven months from a new episode, (That's counting the annual Christmas special.) so I guess that's a way of looking at it. For a British TV show, where seasons are often as few as three episodes and average about six, the thirteen episode seasons of Doctor Who were always a bit unusual. Still that means that after the middle of June I'll be counting the days again.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Doctor Who: The Gemini Contagion

About the same writing quality as the Jade Pyramid (Which it came with as a set, and which I've already reviewed here, which is why I didn't put up the same cover twice.) but not read by Matt Smith. The Doctor's dialog still doesn't sound like the Doctor, but perhaps a little closer. This one is more like a regular episode of the series, something like the David Tennant episode Waters of Mars, where an alien intelligence is taking over people's bodies and turning them into zombie like monsters. There is one cool bit. Whenever the aliens talk through their human hosts, their voices have been made to distort and echo slightly. A nice use of the fact that this is an audio adventure. There are also some good sound effects for space cruisers, ray guns, the Tardis, and so forth. I enjoy these audio books that are sort of like Radio shows too.
There's one cute dialog exchange where a character asks the Doctor how he knows how to fly a space cruiser and he says something like, "I'm used to piloting a far more complicated ship that's designed to be flown by six people all by myself. I think I can handle this."

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Coolest Thing This Week


Godzilla crushes Dr. No's. My favorite Comic Book store, (and the best Comic Book/Games Store in Georgia, says I) crushed by the King of Monsters. That's about as cool as it gets. For details visit the Dr. No's blog.

http://drnoscomicsandgames.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 01, 2011

Muddled Shadows

"Having been a lifetime Howard fan and lucky enough to adapt most of his bigger-than-life heroes like Conan, Kull, Red Sonja, and others to the comic format, Solomon Kane was the one holdout for me . . . " Bruce Jones

Apparently a lifetime Howard fan that doesn't know REH didn't create Red Sonja. Jones is writing the new Dark Horse comic book mini series, Red Shadows, which adapts two Robert E. Howard stories, Skulls in the Stars and Red Shadows into comic book form. Given that the online preview over at Previews World begins with the quote shown above and then shows a scene that isn't in Howard's Skulls in the Stars original story, I don't hold out a lot of hope for this one. And for some reason, Kane seems to be wearing a cowboy hat in some of the panels...

preview is here:

http://previewsworld.com/public/default.asp?t=1&m=1&c=6&s=783&ai=107178&ssd=