Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Penultimate Savage Sword?

   I picked up SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN reprint volume #21 last night. It reprints issues 213 to 222. The black and white magazine ran for 235 issues, so that means there are only 13 issues to go. For the most part, these 600 page ‘phone books’ have reprinted 10 issues each, which does make me wonder about the next issue. Will they cram all thirteen issues into volume 22? Do they plan to reprint the ten issues of that other Conan black and white magazine, CONAN THE SAVAGE bringing the total to 23 volumes? They did reprint the Conan material from Savage Sword’s predecessor, SAVAGE TALES, so why not CONAN THE SAVAGE? (A funny side note for me is that when I created a Conan knock off when I was twelve and drew a bunch of comic book adventures, he was TARGO THE SAVAGE. Take that Marvel. Beat you to it by twenty or so years.)
   Flipping through the volume last night, I had forgotten that a lot of the last two dozen or so issues of SAVAGE SWORD were taken up by adaptations of a couple of the TOR Conan pastiches. Those don’t interest me much. In between though, you get original stories by my favorite Conan pasticher, Roy Thomas. The art varies from excellent to pretty poor. I think Marvel knew the series was circling the drain.
  Another thing I’d forgotten was that since the Marvel color comic CONAN THE BARBARIAN was canceled before SAVAGE SWORD, Roy Thomas created a backup feature that went on with the Continuity of the color comic, so there was a CONAN THE BARBARIAN backup feature in SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. I find that kind of amusing.
   Anyway, I own a full set of the original SAVAGE SWORD magazines, so people have asked me why I want these reprint volumes. I worry about people like that.
PS. This volume includes the two-part crossover between Conan and Solomon Kane. Only Roy Thomas could have brought these two characters together in a story that actually fits the continuity established by Robert E. Howard in his stories. Go Roy!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Final Programme

Titan Books is doing the world a great service by reprinting the works of Michael Moorcock. Though his books have been reprinted countless times, most recently in the Del Rey editions of the saga of Elric, many of his lesser known books have been out of print for quite a while. But now you can read about Corum, Oswald, Bastable, The Eternal Champion, and soon Jerry Cornelius.
Jerry Cornelius is one of Moorcock's strangest creations, a young man who is part super hero, part spy, part messiah, and part any number of other things. In John Clute's 1977 introduction to The Cornelius Quarter, reprinted in Titan's The Final Programme, Clute gives a nice history of Jerry and his adventures, but he leaves out an important part. The Final Programme is quite intentionally written with the same story structure as the adventures of Moorcock's most famous creation, Elric of Melnibone, wielder of the soul-sucking sword, Stormbringer.
Long time fans of Moorcock can see the similarities. Jerry's brutish brother Frank and his ethereal sister Catherine stand in for Elric's cousins Yyrkoon and Cymoril. Frank is something of a drug cook in sixties London and he manages to put Catherine into a drug induced coma just as effective as the enchanted sleep spell Yyrkoon places over Cymoril.
The plot of The Final Programme is something about the building of a super computer by some villainous types, but it's mostly there as background. The characters and the incidents are what shine here. Jerry dashes about a world of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, having superspy adventures and trying to save his sister from his brother.
Speaking of sex, keep in mind that this book was written in 1965, and not published until 1968, but Moorcock was, as usual, ahead of the times. Jerry is bisexual, equally comfortable in bed with men, women, or both. There are no explicit sex scenes, but the prudish should be aware that this book is very much a product of the swinging sixties.
However, despite its sense of place and time, The Final Programme doesn't feel at all dated. Many think Michael Moorcock something of a hack because of the sheer amount of books that he has written. (His newest, The Whispering Swarm, came out last year.) But trust me, the man can write. Here his prose sparkles, at turns wry, playful, and deadly serious. When the needle gun goes in, you'll feel it.
Titan will follow The Final Programme with the other three volumes in the Cornelius Quartet, A Cure For Cancer. The English Assassin, and The Condition of Muzak. All are groundbreaking books. Works of science fiction and social commentary as only Moorcock could write them. Deal yourself in and take a walk on the wild side with Jerry Cornelius. But watch out for Frank. He's a right villain.

The Titan Edition of The Final Programme will be available on Feb 2. Titan was kind enough to send me a review copy.

Monday, January 04, 2016

A New Year

   And it’s 2016 which begins my 10th year of blogging. As I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t really make resolutions but I do have some goals and projects for the New Year. The third Griffin & Price novel from James A. Moore and me has been done for a while, and should be published this year. More info on that when I have it. I’ve got two other books from different publishers in the works, and again I’ll have more to say about that when I can. There are short stories for a couple of anthologies already done, and some secret projects on the way.

   I’ll be a guest for the second time at Anachrocon in Atlanta this February, and I’ll be attending the North Eastern Writing Conference for my fourth time, come July. So looks like I’m already off to a busy writing year.