Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Greatest Movie Ever?

   Unfortunately this is just an example of an overly enthusiastic DVD bootlegger, but The Phantom Menace could actually have been a great film if only it had co-starred Dutch from Predator. "Get to the choppa!!"

Meanwhile...Back in Rohan

   Just in case you're wondering where I am in the plot of Lord of the Rings Online, here's Kharrn having a quick chat with Gandalf the White before Gandalf rides off on an errand known only to himself. That's Théoden King's hall in the background at Edoras. The town is currently emptying as the women and children of the Rohirrim head for the ancient fortress of Helm's Deep.
   So in terms of the books, this puts us near the end of The Two Towers. I will say that this expansion has been much more Tolkein centered than the last several. Big parts of the plot the player actually takes part in are from the books. I've recently met Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas again, and witnessed Théoden escaping the grip of Saruman. Currently helping the people of Rohan prepare for invasion.
   Soon Kharrn the Barbarian will take part in the battle of Helms Deep where shields will be splintered,spears will be shaken, and Orc heads will roll.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Obligatory Cute Cat Picture


Tonight my cat Bruce built a fort from newspapers and then went to sleep inside. Prior to sleeping he was as you see him now, wild eyed and ready for attack.

Each in His prison, Thinking of the Key

   I've been reading William Preston's 'Old Man' stories since the first, 'Helping Them Take the Old Man Down', and I've enjoyed each one. The stories are tributes or homages to my favorite pulp magazine hero, Doc Savage but they are far more than that. The latest, ' Each in His Prison, Thinking of the Key', appearing in this months issue of Asimov's SF magazine is a sterling example of what I'm talking about.
   Yes, there are plenty of references to Doc, (Though it's made clear that the character is NOT Doc Savage) and there's even some pulp style adventure, though with a nifty modern science fiction twist. But what this story and the previous ones all have are wonderful character studies. In this one, a young man with a particular sort of mental talent is tasked with trying to learn the imprisoned Old Man's secrets. Things don't go the way he plans, but we, the readers, learn much about the young man himself. Preston writes about people, first and foremost, even in the midst of all the adventure.
   The story shifts in time from right now to a few months back, and the narrative switches back and forth, but I never got lost. If you're a Doc Savage fan you will find much to smile about, though you don't really need to know about Doc to enjoy the story. Call it some DVD extras for old time fans. You also don't have to have read the previous Old Man tales to read this one, but I'll bet you'll want to go back once you've read Prison. The first three stories are available on Kindle.
   And speaking of Kindle, I didn't realize that you could purchase individual issues of Asimov's on the Kindle until last night. Once I knew there was a new Old Man story available, I'd planned to order an issue of the print magazine, but when I got to Amazon I saw that I could get it on my Kindle and so I was reading the story within five minutes.
   Something I was telling my buddy Cliff about last night (Cliff is also a big fan of the Old Man) is that The Old Man shares a quality that Doc has and that Superman had when I was growing up. He's the kind of hero that once he shows up, you just know things will be all right. He'll do what needs to be done because it's the right thing to do. Can't ask for more than that.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Checking In

   I feel like I've been neglecting the blog so far this year, but truthfully I just haven't had that much to report. This blog was originally started to chronicle my reading habits and most of the posts over the years have been book reviews. At the moment, I'm not reading a ton of books. Part of that is I'm having trouble finding novels that hold my interest, and the other part is a recent flurry of writing activity.
   I'm well into a crime novel with my pal and frequent co-author James A. Moore. I've also got two short stories in the works,a YA book planned for later in the year and a couple of other book projects in various stages of pre-production as the film boys say.
   It's good to be busy, but I do miss all the reading time. Mostly I've been reading short stories and novellas by folks like William Preston, Josh Reynolds, Joe Konrath and others. I'll try to talk about that soon.
   I did get another nifty item for my Don Glut/Dr. Spektor collection and I'll post a pic and a bit of info later.
   Anyway, that's what's going on. I'm sure some new mania will catch my attention soon and I'll have more to blog about.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Acquisitions

  The snow and ice caused me to have to wait for the weekend to get to the comics store. The only new comic I had waiting for me was CONAN:PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE #4, which finishes up the mini series. I enjoyed it, though I still think Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Alfredo Alcala did a better job back in the day.
   Did find a couple of packages waiting for me. My pal Cliff lets me have packages sent to his comic store because there's always someone there to receive them. One was the second volume in the collected boxing fiction of Robert E. Howard. Nifty and very pulpish cover on that one.
   The other package held all eleven volumes of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FRANKENSTEIN written by Donald F. Glut, the creator of Doctor Spektor, Dagar the Invincible, Tragg and the Sky Gods, and other comic series. Each one of these magazines contains a full novel. Don has long been a  fan of the Universal Horror Monsters and really of monsters in general. His comic book work is full of references to Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula, Night of the Demon, Jekyll and Hide, and so forth, and these books contain much of the same. Over the course of the 11 books, Frankenstein's monster encounters Dracula, a werewolf, a mummy, dinosaurs, the Dark Gods from Dagar and Spektor, cavemen, sorcerers, robots, zombies, and all kinds of other horror tropes.
   And the best thing is, I bought this set directly from Don Glut himself! All are in near mint condition and all are autographed by Don. Don tells me that he is writing a 12th and final Frankenstein novel which will tie together all the monster's appearances in his work, including Doctor Spektor, The Invaders, Don's films (He's an Indy filmmaker too) and the novels. Looking forward to that.
   So yeah, lots of nifty stuff acquired over the weekend.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Stardock Beckons

   I started a tradition, back when I was a mere lad of twelve, that every time we have snow here in Georgia, I read Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story, Stardock. That's the one where the twain climb the great mountain Stardock in search of jewels and adventure. There's much talk of snow and ice and cold, and the boys face monsters, woo invisible women, and fight a pair of rival climbers with steel and cunning.
   So, since I'm not going anywhere and I have a nice mug of coffee and some oatmeal cookies, I think it's time I returned to the frozen wastes of Northern Nehwon (No when spelled backwards) and join those two hardy cragsmen, Fafhrd and the Mouser, as they climb into danger, action, and adventure.

Ice and Snow Ragnarok 2014

If you've been following the news you know Georgia has been hit with a major ice storm. This is the parking lot at my apartment this morning.

 Oddly, no one is at the pool.

Not bothered at all, my cat Bruce watches the snow from his favorite perch. All of this is supposed to move out today. I was fortunate in that I didn't lose power. I'm still stuck at home but I have plenty of supplies and should be able to get out of here this afternoon or tomorrow at the latest.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Riddick

   My pal Ro gave me the third Riddick Film for my birthday this week. In some ways its themes were a combination of the first two films. PITCH BLACK was a horror movie with SF underpinnings while CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK  was mostly science fiction action. The third movie, simply titled RIDDICK, manages to carry over the SF elements from CHRONICLES but has its own share of creepy monsters like in PITCH BLACK. Vin Diesel still growls his way through the tough guy lines and Richard B. Riddick is just as much of a killing machine as ever. The supporting cast is good and the action never flags. They did do one thing I really didn't like, but this is a spoiler free review so I'll keep that to myself. All and all a good third entry in the series. (Fourth if you count a short animated film. It's actually pretty good.) The ending definitely left things open for yet another sequel. Time will tell.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Weird Writings of H.P. Lovecraft

   Look what my buddy Cliff got me for my birthday yesterday. The Weird Writings of H.P. Lovecraft, which collects all the stories Lovecraft wrote for Weird Tales magazine, actually shot from the magazines, so original illustrations and all. As close as one can get to reading them as they were originally published without owning the actual mags. I shall shelve this with the Robert E. Howard volumes of the same series.  Thanks again, Cliff!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Nobody Ever Goes There

   Manly Wade Wellman's story NOBODY EVER GOES THERE is something of an oddity in the writer's work. It's usually collected with Wellman's John the Balladeer stories, and while John does appear, he's not the protagonist. Plus, unlike all the other John the Balladeer stories, which are narrated in first person by John himself, NOBODY EVER GOES THERE is told in third person.
   The viewpoint character for the story is a young man named Mark Banion, who grew up in the town of Trimble North Carolina, hearing the stories about the abandoned textile mill on the opposite side of Catch River in the shadow of Music Mountain. The people of Trimble did not cross the old river bridge to the mill. Nobody ever went there.
   Mark learned a few things about the mill from one of the town's older citizens, mainly that the native Indians who once lived in the area had been afraid of something in the spot where the mill had been built, and that one night everyone who worked in the mill and lived in the houses that had been built by the owners had simply vanished. An entire small community gone.
   Mark left town on a football scholarship but eventually wandered back to take a job as a coach at the local high school. Here he met pretty history teacher Ruth Covell, a young woman with a burning curiosity about the old mill. As you can probably guess, Ruth makes and ill-advised trip over the Catch River bridge, but not before she and Mark run into a stranger who's using an old wood-shop in town to repair his guitar, an instrument with silver strings.
   When things turn bad, John goes into action, but the reader doesn't learn his name until the very end of the story. When NOBODY EVER GOES THERE made its original magazine appearance, many probably didn't realize it was a John the Balladeer story until they were halfway through. At that time (1981) Manly Wade Wellman was writing a lot of Southern Mountain horror tales that didn't feature any of his series characters. I first read the story in the Paizo collection of John the Balladeer stories so I wasn't surprised when John showed up.
   Anyway, this wasn't John's last appearance, and later stories went back to the original format so as I said, this one's an interesting anomaly.

Another Weird Dream

   Last night I dreamed that Bob Hope and I were at a television studio where Red Skelton was filming a TV special. Bob wanted to play a joke on Red and was trying to get some studio stationary from a secretary so he could leave a fake note of some kind. And they say pizza doesn't give people weird dreams.