essentialsaltes: (dead)
 A 1968 collection of essays  on the the Tough Guys of 30s fiction by diverse authors, primarily academic (including Carolyn See of UCLA (Extension at the time) - her dissertation was on the Hollywood novel, and her essay here explores the well-populated cross-section of Hollywood and tough guys). I picked it up at an estate sale on a whim.

Probably the best of the bunch and a good primer on the topic is "The 'Black Mask' School" by Edgar-winning UCLA Professor Philip Durham, focusing on the origins and contents of the eponymous pulp magazine.

Some essays are insightful, others veer off into academese, others display a surprising distaste for the whole topic: 

"Although the novel is atrociously written, with ... a tone I can describe only as illiterate archness, it does contain some of the important elements of gangster fiction: an Italian hero, an unbelievable amount of brutality ..., quite a bit of very rapid and decidedly unexciting sex, a Robin Hood sort of romanticism, and some fairly knowledgeable accounts of the methods of criminals."

Of a different novel: "Chase apparently took all the elements he found striking in gangster fiction and magnified them as far as his imagination and the censors would allow; the result is one of the rarest of rare birds, a truly horrible book."

One interesting insight that caught me eye is the epigraph to an essay on Hammett, quoted from Angus Fletcher's Allegory: "[The 'daemonic agent'] will act as if possessed ... He will act part way between the human and divine spheres, touching on both, which suggests that he can be used for the model romantic hero, since romance allows its heroes both human interest and divine power. His essentially energic character will delight the reader with an appearance of unadulterated power. Like a Machiavellian prince, the allegorical hero can act free of the usual moral restraints, even when he is acting morally, since he is moral only in the interests of his power over other men. This sort of action has a crude fascination for us all; it impels us to read the detective story, the western, the saga of space exploration and interplanetary travel."



essentialsaltes: (shoot)
I was idly poking around Supreme Court decisions about ranching land. As one does. And stumbled across this great description of authentic Zane Grey era cattle ranchers versus sheep ranchers sorta stuff. McKelvey v. United States (1922). The legal stiffs just need to punch up the word choices a little bit.

"One of the defendants then requested his comrades to line up with their rifles, which they did, whereupon he proceeded to make a hostile demonstration against one of the employees and to chase him about, obviously as a matter of intimidation."
Early the next morning, before the employees started the sheep again, one of the defendants returned and inquired what was going to be done and, on learning what the owner had directed, said: "You can't go through there." "Something will happen to you this morning." "Are you willing to take the consequences?" This defendant then rode away and a little later others of them rode up on a gallop, ordered the employees to put up their hands, which was done, and then began shooting. They shot and seriously injured one of the employees, threatened to finish him, and did other things calculated to put all three in terror."
essentialsaltes: (quantum Mechanic)
They said that Einstein's curved space theory was wrong, and it was the ten-dimensional multiple theory that was right.

John W. Campbell, "Elimination" (1936)
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: (arkham)

Containing "Inlibration" by me. And other things by other people, too, I think.

You can get it direct from Chaosium, or from amazon, or from your local purveyor of things squamous.
essentialsaltes: (PKD)
Edge collects a number of essays published primarily by Future Life (before it folded) and the LA Weekly in the early 80s. I hoped it would be something like the Glass Teat, which I remember fondly even though the media references are mostly before my time -- speaking of which, let me drop in a link that John Tynes shared about millennials watching the Thanksgiving episode of WKRP -- whereas early 80's would be something I know more about. Unfortunately(?), Harlan instead rants about whatever's on his mind at the moment (occasionally including media) and many of the essays are more about Harlan being Harlan (or at least, posing as 'Harlan' the towering figure of misanthropic bile) than about giving the topic a fair presentation. He's generally right (Paul Schrader's remake of Jacques Tourneur's Cat People was a needless, horrible example of "egregious chutzpah") more often than he's wrong (John Carpenter's remake of Howard Hawks' The Thing was a needless, horrible example of "egregious chutzpah").
Right or wrong, he's always been controversial, and the book includes some of the letters attacking and defending him. A couple of the latter were penned by one J. Michael Straczynski.

Just a snippet to sort of set the chronological stage... "If the year has been as burdensome for you as it's been for John Delorean and the NFL and tourism in Lebanon and the makers of Tylenol..."

Perhaps he was never so controversial as when he entered the war of taste between Hydrox partisans and Oreo aficionados:
Consider the Oreo cookie. Mealy. Chocolate only in the same way that an H-bomb blast-effect is a suntan. Mendacious, meretricious, monstrously mouth-clotting... it is an anti-cookie, the baked good personification of the AntiChrist.

OK, maybe that's not one of the great controversies of our time, and for better or worse Harlan was on the losing side.

Maybe more meaningful is his discussion of Kathy Merrick, schoolteacher of Winifred, Montana. Ms Merrick used "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" in her sophomore English class, and the school board later "refused to renew her contract, ... because she was teaching godless pornography, and they cited my story as the chief example." Coincidentally, Harlan was at a fundraiser to get funds to show People for the American Way's Life and Liberty for All who Believe, a documentary about the rise of the religious right/Moral Majority, shown on TV. While Paul Newman and Goldie Hawn were donating money to cover airtime in big cities, Harlan found himself pledging $1500 to get it shown in Billings, Montana. Turns out, Merrick's area was served by the Missoula-Butte market, but Harlan put out a call to his readers who ponied up the $744 for that.

One of the surprises was finding that Harlan was a fervent supporter of the ERA. He honored NOW's boycott of states that hadn't ratified it, only speaking in those states if a donation to support the ERA were in the offing. He mentions it a few times, and then writes a requiem for the Amendment, which finally expired during this period.

Which makes for an interesting juxtaposition when he discusses his experiences judging the 1983 Miss Tush of the Year Lingerie Contest -- alongside fellow judges including Chuck Norris -- held at the Proud Bird restaurant. Although his only excuse is "it seemed like a good idea at the time," it's actually a very insightful piece.

I think Harlan's dead wrong (so to speak) about Norman Mayer, the antinuke activist who drove up to the Washington Monument with a van full of (he claimed) a half ton of dynamite, and got shot in the head for his trouble.

One of the last entries is his legendary takedown of the Empire Strikes Back videogame, a Sisyphean task that goes on until you lose. "Kindly refrain from kvetching that a ten-year-old can become more proficient at one of these twiddles than I, an adult at least in years, could ever be. Yes, he or she very likely can beat me 99 out of a hundred times; but no ten-year-old I've ever encountered can write MOBY DICK, create a Sistine Chapel fresco, or fuck with any degree of expertise."

As full of himself as he is, Harlan can also turn on the lasers of brutal self-honesty, as when he excoriates himself for being a schmuck to George Pal, just before his death.
essentialsaltes: (Robot in Orbit)
At long last, Chaosium has published and released Eldritch Chrome, an anthology of Lovecraftian cyberpunk stories, including one by your humble narrator.
essentialsaltes: (wingedlionbook)
I'm rather tepid about this collection of short stories. Certainly well-written, with many vivid characters and set-ups, but most of the stories seemed to be missing some crucial element. In some cases, I think this was deliberate as a (failed?) attempt to create more mystery in the story. In other cases, the stories were missing something more elementary: a plot, or a point, or a resolution. The title story is certainly one of the better ones, but I resent it for being similar to a story idea of my own that's been slowly rolling about in my head.
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
Click through for a couple more pictures.
Marquee & line @ the Warner Grand

First of all, Day Two is today. Come on down.

I got home from work and had a brief moment to greet wife and cats. Cats were unimpressed; wife was slightly more impressed, but preoccupied by creating a certain something for the Sunday LARP/scavenger hunt at the festival: The Lash of St. Francis.

Then to fight the freeways during Son of Carmaggedon. Not really affecting my route, but people were still slightly crazier than usual. Anyway, got there safe and sound.

Waved hello to a couple folks, and then first up, a feature (premiere even!) of The Thing on the Doorstep. It was really quite good. So good that it reaches a level of good where I start to get more critical, but I'll forgo that. I liked the very psychological take on the interplay between Derby, Upton, Asenath, and Upton's wife. I think the movie would also play reasonably well with an audience with no knowledge of the story. Alrighty, I'll utter one really trivial quibble. I've always considered Edward Pickman Derby's name to be pronounced UK-style: "Darby". Maybe that's just me. It's not like this filled me with rage or anything. Made me consider dusting off my own attempt at a screenplay adaptation of "Thing".

Next up, Macabre Fantasy Radio Theater. It was neat to see a gaggle of my friends get together to do "The Statement of Randolph Carter" with some live foley work and all. It was a bit of an experiment, but I think it came off great. There's kind of a strange oxymoronic feel to watching a radio show being performed, but it's interesting to see how much a cheap little sound effect can help fill the audio space. On the other hand, sometimes seeing the cheap (but authentic old time-y radio-y) sound effect made for unintentional humor. On the whole, I dug it, and the audience around me dug it.

Then the South Park Coon Trilogy, in which the foul mouthed little children ultimately meet Cthulhu. Cthulhu himself doesn't actually add much humor, but there are some hysterical bits here and there. The idea of Captain Hindsight (particularly his origin story as a TV reporter) is inspired. But the part I laughed at most was recognizing the Clockwork Orange sound cue, and knowing what had to come next.

That wrapped up the screenings, but then the die-hards migrated to the Whale and Ale pub, who were again kind enough to put up with our baloney. And here your narrator was slightly naughty. Frank Woodward ran a Lovecraft trivia game. And my table (David, Sarah, and Blake) joined up as team Gibbous (aka Lady Shaggaggath). Aaron was too late to stop us from taking prizes from deserving paying customers. Round One was relatively basic, and I think two teams had perfect scores. Round Two got much harder, and we missed at least a couple, though fortunately David came up with one ship from "The Call of Cthulhu" and I came up with the other. Round Three had some focus on film adaptations of Lovecraft, and Blake was able to provide the correct answer to a question about Castle Freak. Team effort! Uh, Sarah provided excellent high fives!

And thanks to all the sponsors who gave neat gifties for the top three teams, even if (as a 'ringer' in Aaron's parlance) I probably ought to have hid my light under a bushel. I swear, I think I have won a raffle at every HPLFF I've been to. I have resolved to sit on my hands if my number comes up in the future.

Unless I really really want that thing.
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
The HPL film festival is coming up in a couple weeks. Looks like a good line-up with everything from South Park and The Real Ghostbusters to a new feature adaptation of "The Thing on the Doorstep".

Saturday's events will start off with a 'Brunch 'n Fun' that will include both brunch and fun. This will include a reading of something or other by me. That's not likely to be fun, so it must be brunch.

I finished reading and rating the final four entries in the screenplay contest the other day. It'll be interesting to see what meets with the most favor among the judges. There are some very different takes on what 'Lovecraftian' might mean.

Click the image for tickets. If you bug me, I can get you a code for a discount.

essentialsaltes: (Dead)
Rime Isle by Fritz Leiber is pretty much the last of the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser stories [I refuse to acknowledge the existence of The Knight and Knave of Swords]. Even this one is not really one of my favorites, but it has some nice details. But the book itself is quite handsome... one I picked up at a book sale. It's an early book from Whispers Press, and has Tim Kirk illustrations. It's also actually one of the lettered presentation copies, so it's signed by Leiber, Kirk and publisher Stuart David Schiff.

Millergrams I by Julius Sumner Miller is an odd little book from an odd little dude. A hundred-some questions and mini-experiments designed to inspire some thinking about science, using mostly examples from common experience. His style is really idiosyncratic, and occasionally he refuses to give the answer to his question, preferring that you think about it more. Some of them are pleasant old chestnuts, some are interesting little problems, some are infuriating. I quoted one a little while ago. Here's another, that again shows a bit of his peculiar (and often irritating (to me, anyway)) style:
You know how very light cork is. When you have a cork stopper in hand -- just now taken out of a bottle -- it weighs practically nothing. If thrown into a bowl of water it floats hardly sumberged. The stuff is very, very light. So -- quick now -- we have a ball of cork -- a sphere of cork -- 5 feet in diameter. Question: What does it weigh? Could you lift it? No calculations! Just give us a quick guess.
C'mon... just a quick guess )
essentialsaltes: (news)
Ellen Datlow compiled her list of 608 Honorable Mentions for Best Horror of the Year. I can't imagine the arduous task of reading even 609 stories and including all but the worst one, much less the task of reading many, many more. But waitaminute, me... this post isn't about her, it's about me:

"Spell of the Eastern Sea" made the cut! And I think a half dozen other stories from Dead But Dreaming 2 are also there.
essentialsaltes: (Default)
It's now official & public. My story "Inlibration" has been accepted for publication in an upcoming Chaosium anthology of cyberpunk/Lovecraftian stories edited by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons. Here's the line-up:

Eldritch Chrome

Playgrounds of Angolaland - David Conyers
The Blowfly Manifesto - Tim Curran
SymbiOS - William Meikle
Obsolete, Absolute – Robert M. Price
Open Minded - Jeffrey Thomas
The Battle of Arkham - Peter Rawlik
The Wurms In the Grid - Nickolas Cook
Of Fractals, Fantomes, Frederic and Filrodj - John Shirley
The Gauntlet - Glynn Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
Indifference - CJ Henderson
Dreams of Death - Lois Gresh
Inlibration - Michael Tice
Immune - Terrie Leigh Relf
Hope Abandoned - Tom Lynch
Sonar City - Sam Stone
The Place that Cannot Be - D.L. Snell
Flesh & Scales - Ran Cartwright
Real Gone – David Dunwoody
CL3ANS3 – Carrie Cuinn
essentialsaltes: (Wipeout)
But sometimes, you can't help yourself. Darling of the Day from David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas:

"Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage."
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
Craig at Unfilmable was kind enough to post up my review of the Festival. He also has a nice rundown of the winners, and he provides YouTube links so you can watch Static Aeons and Black Goat (and a quick preview of The Raven).

I think I already mentioned that I was one of the judges (with the other writers) of the screenplay competition. The winner and runner up were my two favorites by a considerable margin, and I'm glad the choice wasn't left only to me, because I couldn't pick a favorite. Fortunately, the other writers' votes helped to determine the victor: Bill Barnett's The Old Man & the Box. And I was glad I was able to meet Bill and congratulate him on his work at the after party. But I did also really enjoy the runner-up, Death Wind by Jim Pinto & Travis Heermann.
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
I drifted (slowly through Friday rush-hour traffic) down to San Pedro for the start of the second Los Angeles-based HPL Film Fest [here's what little I wrote about the first one down here]. Any annoyance at the traffic was alleviated by being ushered into the VIP reception hosted at the Grand Vision Foundation's digs near the Warner Grand Theater itself. Got to hobnob with friends old and new, and drool over the props and things from Whisperer in Darkness. Sean and Andrew brought a ton of stuff along, and it looks as good in person as it does on screen. Also had a chance to try out some Bowen's Whiskey before it's available in stores. They served it in some ice shotglasses that were a little better in concept than execution; it forced you to drink fast as your beverage and container rapidly turned into a puddle in the middle of your hand. So I didn't linger over the bouquet or taste, but it was pleasant and a bit on the sweet side. I also had one of their whiskey-ritas. It sounded like an abomination -- clearly perfect for a Lovecraftian gathering -- but the combo of whiskey and basil-infused lemonade was surprisingly good.

Oh, and I suppose there were some films, eventually.
Settle in for a spell )
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
I'm here to promote all the wonderful things all my wonderful peoples are up to. (* may contain up to 2% self-aggrandizement due to settling on shipment)

Let's begin with the Los Angeles HP Lovecraft Film Festival, since it allows for multiple propers to be given. The fest runs September 16-17.

The LA version of the fest is, of course, the brainchild of [ profile] aaronjv, in association with Andrew Migliore, the founder of the Portland HPLFF.

The fest will screen The Whisperer in Darkness, made by the good folks at the HPLHS, namely Sean Branney and Andrew Leman. The film also features a host of background players of my acquaintance. Off the top of my head: Aaron, Adrianne, Bryan, Chris, David, Jennifer, Maria, and my own self.

The groovy festival poster was created by David Milano.

The fest will have a small literary reading/panel discussion headed up by the dimly-half-remembered-didn't-we-meet-twenty-years-ago Cody Goodfellow, and featuring a handful of luminaries, with me representing the dim end of the luminary spectrum.

In a similar visual Lovecraftian vein is Dr. Pookie's recent magic lantern show: Ice, with voiceover work by me.

Speaking of (real) voice talent, Flor is putting her demo reel together. Other vocal folds for hire include Toren, Graydon & Shawn

Maria Alexander's poetry collection, At Louche Ends, was recently published, as was Left Hanging, an anthology of suspenseful stories edited by her.

Aaron is also in charge of a road rally event coming up on August 27th here in Los Angeles. His first one was great, and I'll be there for version 2.0.

Dr. Pookie's art found itself on the cover of Petrychor's album, Effigies and Epitaphs.

Chun continues his episodic science fiction simulation/LARP, Starship Valkyrie.

Probably too many other people to mention are also pushing forward various LARP, RPG, and video game projects. So everyone just go out and spend money on these things, ok?

Jackie Kashian will make with the funny somewhere near you sooner or later.

The reanimated The Unspeakable Oath has featured John Tynes, Richard Becker, Dan Harms, Toren Atkinson in its recent issues.

Toren and his pals make the Caustic Soda podcast. It often makes me break out in inappropriate laughter at work.

Various bebbies 'n' weddings are in the works.

I've tried to concentrate on things recent and shortly upcoming, but no doubt I've forgotten things even with that restriction, so let me know if you need a shout out. Or feel free to promote your goods and services in the comments.
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
Dead But Dreaming 2 is an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction - 22 tales from authors ranging from the well-known (at least in inbred Lovecraft Country) to comparative unknowns like myself.

I confess I have a pretty dim view of the current state of Cthulhu Mythos fiction. Or maybe it's fairer to say that I have a dim view of the state of CM fiction from ten years ago, when I largely gave up on consuming it. It had descended into formula -- a Chinese menu of protagonist type/forbidden tome/alien god, combined with greater and greater dollops of conscious parody or (even worse) unconscious parody.

So, if you're the type of HPL aficionado who thrills to the toes every time a hidden bookshelf is lovingly described with a litany of a half-dozen unspeakable tomes, or a story develops the genealogies of blasphemous deities... you may not like this book. The number of brainless namechecks (I almost wrote 'nameless brainchecks') is vanishingly small, with authors relying more on the themes and feel of Lovecraft's fiction rather than on the familiar litany of proper names. Though still derivative, DBD2's greatest strength as an anthology is that its stories largely eschew the cliche in favor of the original, breathing new life into the Old Gent's legacy. None of the contents were written on autopilot, and if not all of them are overwhelming successes, at the least they ventured into uncharted territory with us in tow.

I'm always a sucker for stories set in my hometown of Los Angeles, so I enjoyed Walter Jarvis' "Taggers", which leads off the book, though maybe not quite as much as I enjoyed Stephen Woodworth's similarly-themed "Street Runes," which I coincidentally read not that long ago. Other winners include:

Darrell Schweitzer's "Class Reunion"
"Your Ivory Hollow," in which WH Pugmire pulls off the difficult task of writing a story -- a good story, mind you -- using second-person narration.
"Dark Heart" by Kevin Ross, who also edited the anthology.
John Goodrich's "N is for Neville"
Donald Burleson's joke-y mashup of The Terrible Old Man and A Christmas Carol ("Christmas Carrion") avoided my ire with its cleverness.
Pete Rawlik's "Here Be Monsters" provides a fitting conclusion with a wry variation on a theme.

All in all, the anthology is mostly solid hits with a number of home runs and just a couple strike-outs. But I was a little disappointed that nobody (I think) had really knocked one out of the park. Now as I said, I'm pretty jaded about Cthulhu Mythos fiction, so I may be a harsh grader. So when I say that DBD2 is 'only' very good, keep in mind that my reaction to a lot of contemporary Mythos fiction is typically: "Well, that was crap."

Modesty forbids me from discussing my own story -- apart from lamenting that several apostrophes appear to have been consumed by a punctuavore -- but strangely modesty does not forbid me from quoting from Pugmire's review: "One of the finest stories is the beautifully poetical "The Spell of the Eastern Sea" by [[ profile] essentialsaltes], which I love for the loveliness of its prose and its setting in Kingsport, my favourite of Lovecraft's mythical cities. As an evocation of HPL's city of mists, the tale is brilliant."

*does 'We're not worthy!' routine*


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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