essentialsaltes: (cthulhu)
 A Fedogan & Bremer anthology, with assorted stories chosen somewhat haphazardly by Bob Price from dark and obscure places. Like any anthology, the quality ranges widely. Among the likes:

Duane Rimel's "The Jewels of Charlotte" - a nice bit of weird that doesn't feel it has to come up with a turgid explanation.

Obviously can't argue with Borges "There are More Things"

Randall Garrett's twist ending in "The Horror out of Time" allllllmost works, and gets an E for effort.

The first 90% of David Kaufman's "John Lehmann Alone" has great atmosphere of increasing dread, but I just don't like the resolution. This would have benefitted from even less attempt at explanation.
essentialsaltes: (cthulhu)
I didn't have high hopes for this book, but I heard there might be some Lovecraftian elements. In the sense that a big monstrous being with some powers of mind control was in hibernation deep under the water and gets woken up by the sciences straining too far in one direction, yes it is Lovecraftian. But in any real sense, it is not Lovecraftian. John Brunner wrote many great novels; this is not among them.

Favorite moment: male scientist hero type assumes that attractive female scientists without boyfriends must have something seriously wrong with them. Fortunately, he overcomes this prejudice and marries attractive female scientist.

Anyway, go read Stand on Zanzibar.
essentialsaltes: (agent)
For contributing to Bryan's Poe bust project, I received a signed copy of Mrs. Poe, which probes into the relationship between Poe and poet Frances Osgood (and Poe's sickly wife, and Osgood's absent, philandering husband).

It's a very successful piece of historical fiction, although a few details stick out as gratuitous results of research rather than being intrinsic to the story. Told from Osgood's point of view, it provides an interesting look into her mindset as she deals with her changing feelings towards Poe, who charms and glowers his way through New York literary society like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Largely faithful to the actual history, the book is least successful in injecting a bit of a mystery into the action. And as a Poe lover it was very satisfying to see Griswold hatefully portrayed.
essentialsaltes: (herbert West)
del Toro LACMA

Really nice collection, organized into little themed areas.

Most of the items are from del Toro's collection, but there are a few from LACMA itself:

del Toro LACMA

As creepy as the many life-size life-like statues are, I did like the Ray Harryhausen tribute:

del Toro LACMA

There were also a small number of metal sculptures Ray himself had made.

del Toro LACMA

Speaking of statuary, got to see Bryan's work -- someday I'll get to the other big bust in Providence:

del Toro LACMA

Arthur Rackham original!

del Toro LACMA
essentialsaltes: (cthulhu)
The Strange Dark One collects an eight-fingered handful of stories centering on Nyarlathotep -- at least Wilum's take on this protean entity -- set primarily in Pugmire's dream-haunted Sesqua Valley, though I also much appreciated the one detour into 'Lovecraft territory'. The stories leap off the page from time to time in fabulous passages of near-prose-poetry that are really evocative.
essentialsaltes: (secular)
On alternate Earth, north is north.

Smaug went first, choosing Khan Industries, and setting up HQ in East Africa (preventing me from starting in Lemuria). Giantsdance started in Venezuela as the Saharans. I Balkaniaed myself into New Guinea. The Atomic Messiah chose Iceland with Die Mechaniker.

Smaug settled comfortably into Africa, Giantsdance had S. America, I had Australia, and the Atomic Messiah struggled to get all of Europe. It was quiet for a time, and then the punches started getting thrown. I did fairly well, and if not for the rule that people who have won a game start with one fewer victory point, I would have won. Giantsdance was eliminated, which opened an envelope that will have repercussions next time. In the previous campaign, it took quite a while for someone to be eliminated; I think this earlier opening will have some greater effects. Ultimately, Khan Smaug won the day. Smaug founded the major city of Rio Zika in Brazil, like the pinhead he is. The Atomic Messiah made a minor city in China, and I created Irem in the Middle East -- "Of the [Cthulhu] cult, he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched."
essentialsaltes: (danger)
I met Jim in Portland at the HPLFF. I was intrigued by a horror-tinged mystery novel with the action set at a girls' school. Dr. Pookie and I both love a couple such, written by female authors -- Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers & Miss Pym Disposes, by Josephine Tey. It was too much to hope that Smiley's first novel would live up to those. And it doesn't, though it's really of a different genre -- more hard-boiled pulp detective. He has some good, snappy dialogue and character interaction, but there's a lot to be desired. Ostensibly set in Prohibition-era Los Angeles, there are very few details that set the scene in either time or place. Of course, as an Angeleno, one of my favorite things is reading a story set in my town that feels like my town. And it's a consequent bugaboo if it's not done well. As a feminist, another one of my favorite things is female characters that have more than one dimension. And it's a consequent bugaboo if it's not done well. Most of the students at the school may actually have zero dimensions; they are shuttled from a dorm to another place to keep them safe, but I'll be damned if anyone actually ever talks to them, or asks them questions about the murder in their midst.
essentialsaltes: (pKD)
The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal, by David Barker and Wilum Pugmire is a sequel and/or analogue of "The Thing on the Doorstep". Set in the modern day, the story revolves around the occult descendants of Asenath's coterie of diabolists. There are some enjoyable elements, but the novella is a bit uneven, I (perhaps unfairly) hypothesize because of a mismatch between the co-authors and the story. There are some delicious passages of fin de siècle decadence, but they are out of place when juxtaposed with cell phones and almond lattes. And if Lovecraft's protagonists are way too apt to fall into a faint, the narrator here is curiously blasé about the contraventions of the natural laws of the universe that go on around him. But still much to like, including Erin Wells' evocative interior art.

In contrast, there is little to like at all about Address: Centauri, by F L Wallace. I only hope I can ebay this Gnome Press edition to turn a literary failure into a financial success (for me). Perhaps I was too influenced by Boucher's review quoted on the Wiki page: "pretty lifeless fiction, in which both prose and characterization emerge directly from the machine, untouched by human hands." But I read 20 pages, skimmed 20 more, and then gave up. Definitely a strange idea -- in a future where medicine has eradicated all disease, and mankind is all beautiful and smart and able-bodied, there is an asteroid, nicknamed Handicap Haven, where the most severe 'accidentals' are kept, more or less humanely. Bodies so transformed by accidents (since disease is nonexistent) that even super-medicine can't completely fix them. So by hook or crook, a motley band of 'disabled' people break out. On paper, I can almost make it exciting and socially relevant. But it just isn't, as far as I can tell with as far as I got.

In some way, it does bring to mind a certain historical mindset. The book is from 1955, before the space program, but I think there was already this idea that we were going to send our best and brightest into the test jets and rocketships. And then there is a definite echo of that as well in PKD, say in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, where the best and brightest go to the offworld colonies to be saved, and the detritus left on a radioactive earth all look like Edward James Olmos.
essentialsaltes: (dorian Gray)
A couple scores from that estate sale the other week.

Who Goes There? is a collection of John Campbell stories (alas I don't have the dust jacket) from Shasta Press, one of the many boutique SF presses that sprouted up in the shadow of Arkham House, but didn't stay the course as well.

The titular story is notable, as it provides the bridge that connects Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" to John Carpenter's The Thing. Carpenter's film hews close enough to it that it's hard for me not to see the film in my eyes. Spoiler Alert! As in the film, Blair figures things out and decides to protect the world by destroying the magnetos in the airplanes. The film maybe has a stronger angle in that Blair is alone in his self-sacrifice. But the book's take is also interesting. One of the pilots goes out and comes back and says something along the lines of, "I didn't trust a biologist to do it right, so I destroyed the spares." Fatalistic Depression Era fucks!

All fairly good stories, though creaky with age, and a certain amount of "I, a man, must solve this problem with my man brain and my man science." Although the revelation and denouement is a little unbelievable, I did like the feel and mood of the first three quarters of "Dead Knowledge". As a spoileriffic (and less positive) link has it: "Three human star travelers have arrived at a new world 27 light years from earth, only to find that it once harbored intelligent, highly developed, humanoid civilization that is now dead. And, curiously, it's long dead residents have their bodies well preserved & they all apparently committed suicide!!"

The eerie sense of a dead world comes across nicely in Campbell's prose.

The Dolphins' Bell, by Anne McCaffrey

Set on Pern in the early days of human colonization, this short story tells of the evacuation of the Southern Continent, as dolphineers communicate with their dolphins to transport some of the material across the sea. And there's a love story. Um, between humans. It's sort of a by-the-numbers competent infilling of a lacuna in Pern history.

But the book itself is a lovely affair, published by Wildside Press with full art borders, and a couple full page illos by Pat Morrissey. Signed by McCaffrey. #386/400.

So.... it may be off to ebay with this one. Fortunately, I still have the signed Dragonsinger that I got at WorldCon, passing through a gauntlet of chaff from Prime and others.

In other news, I also won a nice auction of three Dunsany books from the 1920s. A first of Chronicles of Rodriguez, and reprints of The King of Elfland's Daughter, and Time and the Gods, all by Putnam in signed numbered editions (signed by both the Baron and Sidney Sime). It looks like all ten plates (and frontispiece) in Time and the Gods are signed by Sime.

essentialsaltes: (arkham)
Travelling back in time, as usual. I read Dead But Dreaming 2 a few years ago, and now am getting around to the original (or at least the Miskatonic River Press reissue of the original).

This anthology is a worthy antecedent to DBD2, with a nice variety of generally good Lovecraftian stories. There are maybe more meh ones in the bunch (than DBD2), but still not much in the way of stinkeroos. Standouts for me include "The Disciple" by David Barr Kirtley, and Ramsey's Campbell's "The Other Names".
essentialsaltes: (cartouche)
Ancient Images starts off promisingly: A film editor tracking down a lost film with Karloff and Lugosi winds up dying mysteriously, and his colleague takes up the charge to find the film and silence the critics who say it never existed. Details emerge... a troubled set... a dead director... powerful figures try to suppress the film both when it was made, and now that new efforts are being made to uncover it. Then it veers off into 'Wicker Man'-esque territory, along with an additional quasi-Irish Traveller or Romany caravan element. The main spooks are seen-out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye types that seem to be endlessly dogging the steps of our main characters, but don't do anything other than make tiny noises and appear in the corners of people's eyes, at least until we get deep into the not very climactic climax.

I was surprised to see that Wiki page for Ramsey lists it as winning the Bram Stoker. So much so that I checked the listing for the Bram Stokers and didn't see it there. Left a note on the Wiki talk.

Skin Job collects a couple dozen poems that riff off films and film-making, or delve into anatomical and medical fixations. Some good stuff here: curious turns of phrase and trails of thought. To tie my two tales together:

Bad timing runs in the family. Karloff
does his best with rotten lines.

From "Made for T.V." (anent Frankenstein 1970, which might be better lost than found.)
essentialsaltes: (cocktail)
The Axolotl Special is a slim volume of three short stories by different authors, prefaced by introduction by three different authors.

I'm pretty sure I've read Lucius Shepard's "Aymara" before, but it's still a great time travel story, and the star of this collection. John Kessel provides the most cogent intro. Michael Shea's "Fill it with Regular" takes on an interesting end of the world scenario, but the humorous take doesn't quite work for me. Bruce Sterling provides the intro. Jessica Amanda Salmonson's "The Revelations and Pursuits of Timith, Son of Timith" has some nice Dunsanian touches here and there, but wears out its welcome a bit. Tom Ligotti has interesting things to say about the hero in fantasy literature, but little to say about JAS' story. It's pretty sweet to have it signed by all participants.

The Jennifer Morgue is one of Charlie Stross' Laundry Files books, the series about spies that deal with Lovecraft-ish-oid things that got started with the Atrocity Archives. Jennifer Morgue is Stross' nod toward the James Bond franchise, and there are amusing details throughout for lovers of Bond. But the story stands pretty well on its own.

Thanks to my trip to the HPLFF, this one is also signed.
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
All the photos (and a couple videos)

I flew up Thursday to Portland for the 20th anniversary fest. Got set up in my hotel, and then ventured out for food and haircare products. I was happily surprised to find that you can still buy brilliantine. The Thursday night VIP party was held at a speakeasy, Circa 33, and we were encouraged to dress Thirties' style. I didn't really go for period authentic, but tuxedos are pretty timeless, and the brilliantined hair added some vintage flair. Great venue & good drinks. I spent some effort flipping the dipswitch from introvert to extrovert, and managed fairly well at mingling with people I knew and people I didn't. A sazerac and some ciders also helps to lower the shields, so that pretty soon, I'm embracing Charlie Stross and Jeff Combs.


Met lots of other good people there. Dick Lupoff and his wife -- discovered we were both Raiders fans. Leeman Kessler, [ profile] princeofcairo, a gaggle of other attendees. And plenty of friends that I generally only get to see at the fest: Glancy, Gwen, Andrew, Andrew & Linda, Gwen & Brian (who had some particularly kind things to say), and ...

The party was really a high point. It was a great venue, and everyone was relaxed -- just a bunch of fascinating people with a common interest being people together.

... )
essentialsaltes: (skeleton)
The Bone Clocks is a new(ish) novel by the author of Cloud Atlas.

Although the two are very different works, The Bone Clocks does borrow some of its structure from Cloud Atlas. Six stories set at some chronological distance from each other. But instead of ranging across centuries, The Bone Clocks limits itself to roughly the span of one human life, jumping a decade or so each time. The whole spans the late 20th to mid-21st century.

Most of the sections are novelistic slices of life that are somewhat ordinary, except that there are a few very clear hints that something is going on. Something 'magical' or psychic or something. This is all kept rather vague for quite some time. Enough so, that one gets (okay, I got) frustrated with the author for deliberately concealing information about just what exactly is going on. He is slightly forgiven, because it's mostly very well-written, and possibly the longest section has very little information at all about WTF is going on, but is still an enjoyable mini-not-quite-love story with well-drawn characters.

When the mystery is (largely) revealed, what is going on is the sort of thing that might have made the nucleus of a B-list table-top RPG 20 years ago. This group of special people is at war with that group of special people, and they all live behind the scenes and manipulate ordinary people. I know what you're thinking, but these special people are totally not vampires (PS some of them are totally vampires). That's a little unfair, but I'm glad I enjoyed the writing and the journey enough that the disappointing reveal was not too disappointing.

Now that the reader has a grasp of just what the heck is going on, section 5 provides the exciting climax, full of derring-do and goings-on. Section 6 (and last) provides a rather dismal look at our eco-nightmare future. Unfortunately, the dystopia is drawn a bit heavy handedly even for a granola-munching polar bear-hugger like me. But the section wraps up with a fitting conclusion to the overall novel.

I'd like to think that the character of Dr. Marinus is related to Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett of HP Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, who also had to deal with... Er, spoiler alert.
essentialsaltes: (cthulhu)
This huge tome weighs in at about 850 pages and 5 pounds. It was a trial for my mind and my wrists. Here at the end, I've forgotten what I thought about the beginning, apart from a remembrance that Alan Moore's introduction is turgid and unilluminating, while Klinger's own foreword is a really good epitome of HPL's life and work.

Perhaps the best part of the annotation is the included illustrations: photos (including many of Donovan's photos of relevant architecture) maps, images from Lovecraft's letters, and the most welcome addition of some of the original artwork that accompanied the stories in the pulps.

The 20-some stories are well-chosen, although (for good or ill) they present the slow evolution of Yog-Sothothery from its nebulous origins to its full flowering, while the Dunsanian, Dreamlands-y stories have been excluded.

The textual annotations are mostly interesting and provide relevant background and/or additional detail. Dictionary definitions are blessedly few. Some of the notes annoyed me somewhat, in that they winkingly accept the stories as true, or 'apologize' for incorrect details. Klinger has also produced an Annotated Sherlock Holmes, and I think this is more an attitude of the Baker Street Irregular set, to attempt to conform reality and the sacred texts. Just as an example, when "Inspector of Police" Legrasse appears, Klinger presents the names of the actual holders of that title circa 1908, and then declares that "It is more probable that the narrator confused the officer's title -- that the latter was likely a mere junior official of the NOPD given the task of the strange raid described following."

That's not as winky as some of the others, but it was the first I found hunting randomly. If someone were actually using these notes for insight, they might lead to confusion as Klinger mixes the real with the fictional.

Other notes seem to be more snarky editorial comments rather than annotations. In reference to the "nauseous musical instruments" of 'The Hound', he writes "The narrator is exaggerating here: The instruments could hardly be at fault, only the sounds that St. John and he made on them." I am neither illuminated nor amused.

Not that I researched everything, but there are a few (and only a very few) errors that leapt out at me. I believe he gets the conversion between the Gregorian and Julian calendars backward, or rather confuses which calendar is Julian and which is Gregorian. And though Klinger may be technically right (the best kind of right) that Palæeogean (C'mon Howie, why not Palæogæan?), though obviously formed from Greek roots to mean pertaining to the old earth, does not appear to have ever been a word used in that sense (apart, I suppose, from Lovecraft) -- Klinger's gloss is "A Byzantine dynasty from the eleventh century to the seventeenth century CE. Lovecraft evidently means simply "old" -- palaeology is the study of antiquities."

From my knowledge of numismatics, I knew that what Klinger is referring to is the Paleologan dynasty. A frightful error! Though not so bad as Joshi's hilarious gloss on lemur! Buffoons!

OK, having laid down the erudite smack, I declare this a very fine, informative, and genuinely useful, book.
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
Dr. Pookie noticed Edwin Henry Landseer's "Man Proposes, God Disposes," painted in 1864. It's quite a striking painting.

Despite the title, the complete lack of tentacles, and being painted decades before Lovecraft's birth, I think there's a hint of the Lovecraftian here, in the illustration of the futility of man in the face of the uncaring universe, even with the benefit of our feeble science, represented here by the telescope. This is not a celebration of the heroism of those who risk their lives in exploration, but a scene of horror at their failure.

The painting depicts the aftermath of John Franklin's last expedition to the Arctic, which led to the deaths of the entire complement of 129. Obviously, "At the Mountains of Madness" also deals with a failed polar expedition, and to make an extremely tenuous connection, the fictional expedition passes Franklin Island, named after John Franklin.

To get even more tenuous, the story also mentions Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, two volcanoes in Antarctica. The mountains are named after the ships used by James Ross in his polar expeditions, and later used by the doomed Franklin expedition. The remains of HMS Erebus have recently been found.

The painting now hangs in a university hall in London, where (on test days) it is covered by the Union Jack to avoid spooking the students.

Recent graduate Michaela Jones was told that a student during an exam had stared directly into one of the polar bears' eyes. Trance-like, the student had then gone "mad" and killed herself - although not before etching the words "The polar bears made me do it" onto her exam paper.

Friendspage breaking giant image back here )
essentialsaltes: (Wogga Zazula!)

And when I put my ear to it, there was a faint sound of singing and the gnawing of bones. Maybe I should go down there?
essentialsaltes: (City Hall)
Got to the end of California, so to speak. Definitely enough history in there for me to have learned a lot, and since it's an illustrated history, there's plenty to gawk at it as well. Sure, it's fortysomething years old, but that's at least new enough that things like the Watts Riots and Cesar Chavez are not only covered, but the spin is recognizable as that of the average liberal Californian who's fortysomething years old.

The book starts off with quite a bang. I guess I was vaaaaaguely aware the the name California comes from a work of fiction, but I was not aware of the peculiar nature of 'California':

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very near the Terrestrial Paradise, and inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and living in the manner of Amazons. They are robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great valor. Their island is one of the most rugged in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks. Their arms are all of gold, as is the harness of the wild beasts which, after taming, they ride.
In this island called California ... are many griffins the like of which are not found in any other part of the world. In the season when the griffins give birth to their young, these women cover themselves with thick hides and go out to snare the little griffins, taking them to their caves where they raise them. And being quite a match for these griffins, they feed them the men taken as prisoners and the males to which they have given birth. All this is done with such skill that the griffins become thoroughly accustomed to them and do them no harm. Any male who comes to the island is killed and eaten by the griffins.

Dr. Pookie was good enough to get me the recent edition of Fritz Leiber's Adept's Gambit from Arcane Wisdom. It features an earlier draft than the published version, retaining some of the references to the Cthulhu Mythos. It also has a letter from HPL to Leiber, praising the story in general and criticizing bits of spelling, diction, and historical reference. I haven't read the final published version in some time, so apart from a few obvious differences, it's hard for me to pick out the changes in the text. It's always been a bit of a strange story, with the focus shifting from Fafhrd and the Mouser to the story of Elsbeth/Ahura, but still a good one.

I curse that much of my library has been carted away in a pod, because I have a vague memory of a different letter from HPL to Leiber than the one printed here, that also offers some good insights and advice.
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
How cool is this?

I was contacted by Morgan Scorpion, who asked to record my story "Inlibration" (from the Eldritch Chrome anthology of cyber-Cthulhu stories). It's a strange experience hearing your own words read back to you, but I really enjoy her reading -- and suddenly feel guilty about sticking things like Korean slang and Đuro Đaković in the story! Fortunately, she handled it all nicely. Anyway, if you're not into the whole literacy thing, you can now have my story read to you:

Her YouTube channel has a lot of other Lovecraft and Lovecraftian stories as well. Many thanks, Morgan!
essentialsaltes: (muslin)
Yep, it's that time again.

P Djeli Clark wrote an unflinching, exhaustive, and mostly fair essay on the topic.

I think the author dismisses the 'he was a man of his times' defense a little too cavalierly. People who use that line of thought are accused of "ignoring that victims of racism were also men and women of those times." Bwuh? I think I will continue to ignore it, because it seems to be a non sequitur.

Related to that is his correct observation that "[HPL] was a racist too. And he was very good at it." Yes, when a masterful word-user expresses ugly things, they are masterfully ugly. Is Lovecraft more racist than Joe Sixpack, *because* he is more eloquent (and his writings have survived)? I'm not so sure. But overall I'm in violent agreement with the author.

It was also a bit of a shock to see Bryan and the HPL Bust project appear at the tail end of the essay. Bryan and I have traded angry words on a lot of issues, so I'm not sure whether to rush to his defense or kick him when he's down. Okay, okay, it's really between kicking him when he's down, and refraining from kicking him when he's down. But knowing him, he'll be happy to stand all alone on his own two feet, and tell us all (and the author of the piece) how he feels. OK, next tough question: do I tag Bryan in the FB simulcast?


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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