Friday, July 31, 2009

Fahrenheit 451Graphic Novel

NPR had a good story last night by correspondent Lynn Neary about Reimagining 'Fahrenheit 451' As A Graphic Novel (4 min 40 sec). The adaption has Ray Bradbury's endorsement, though how it can capture the nuance of the original novel is hard to imagine. And as they note in the course of the report, it's somewhat ironic that the novel Fahrenheit 451 is being turned into a comic book given that in the dystopian world it imagines books are banned but comic books and porno mags are proliferate. When you consider the hoopla over ComicCon to the deafening silence surrounding Readercon it gives that aspect of the novel added relevance.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


From the Old Time Radio show X Minus One here's an adaptation of one of Isaac Asimov's famous short stories, originally published in the October 1951 issue of Galaxy Magazine.

C-Chute (MP3 13 MB)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Conan O’Brien's anime voice-over

A few nights ago Conan O’Brien and second banana Andy Richter dropped by the Bang Zoom! studios and did some zany anime voice-over work.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

War Of The Worlds: Goliath

Heavy Metal looks set to cash in on the popularity of Steampunk with the upcoming film War Of The Worlds: Goliath.

"Heat rays, steam-powered battle Tripods, souped up biplane and triplane fighters, a 1,500-foot long, armored battle Zeppelin and a re-imagined steampunk New York City are some of the striking visuals that are being brought to life in this epic production."

There's something in the American psyche that can't stand the idea of alien invaders being defeated by Nature instead of by Yankee might. Right after H. G. Wells' original novel, The War of the Worlds, was published there appeared an unauthorized sequel, Edison's Conquest of Mars, which saw Americans launching a counter-attack and giving those damned aliens what for.

Needless to say this completely misses the point of Wells' novel which put the shoe on the other foot and dramatized what it would be like for the dominate world powers to be the victims of imperialist aggression, rather than the perpetrators.

And I think it's not without significance that this new movie features not the scientist/inventor Edison but the cowboy/soldier Teddy Roosevelt. So much of what passes for science fiction is just military fiction with sf trappings added to try and give its played-out plots an illusion of novelty.

So this new movie may end up being entertaining, but I suspect that it won't be much more than that. I'll have to wait and see. In any event, for substantive steampunk there's always Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Marvel Anime

Marvel has struck a deal with Madhouse to release OVAs of some of its superheroes.

Looks promising. I just wish they'd do the same thing with some popular sf/f titles. Like maybe an anime version of Elric...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fly Me To The Moon

Form the Old Time Radio show Dimension X comes the radio adaption of George Pal's curious 1950 film Destination Moon (6.25 MP3).

The film itself puts more emphasis on scientific realism than entertainment, resulting in what amounts to a technicolor docu-drama. It's an interesting glimpse into how people envisioned a trip to the moon years before it happened. If you want to watch it just head on over to The Classic Science Fiction Channel.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Evening Star

by Edgar Allan Poe

'Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro' the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
'Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
I gazed awhile
On her cold smile;
Too cold—too cold for me—
There pass'd, as a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar,
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Late Night Boosh

In case you missed it last night, here's The Boosh blowing minds on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


by Clark Ashton Smith

Now were the Titans gathered round their king
In a waste region slipping toward the verge
Of drear extremities that clasp the world—
A land half-moulded by the hasty gods,
Grotesque, misfeatured, blackly gnarled with stone,
And left beneath the bright scorn of the stars;
Or worn and marred from conflict with the deep,
Conterminate, of Chaos. Here they stood,
Old Saturn midmost, like a central peak
Among the lesser mounts that guard its base.
Defeat, that gloamed within each countenance
Like the first tinge of death, upon a sun
Gathering like some dusk vapor, found them cold,
Heavy of limb, and halting as with weight
Of threatened worlds and trembling firmaments.
A wind cried round them like a trumpet-voice
Of phantom hosts—hurried, importunate,
And intermittent with a tightening fear.
Far off the sunset sprang, and the hard clouds,
Molten among the peaks, seemd furnaces
In which to make the fetters of the world.

Seared by the lightning of the younger gods,
They saw, beyond the grim and crouching hills,
Those levins thrust like spears into the heart
Of swollen clouds, or cleaving the dark sky
Like swords colossal. Then, as the Titans watched,
The night rose like a black, enormous mist
Around them wherein naught was visible
Save the sharp levin leaping in the north;
And no sound came except of seas remote
That seemed like Chaos ravening past the verge
Of all the world, fed with the crumbling coasts
Of Matter.

Till the moon, discovering
that harsh swart wilderness of sand and stone
Tissued and twisted in chaotic weld,
Lit with illusory fire each Titan's form,
They sate in silence, mute as stranded orbs—
The wrack of Time, upcast on ruinous coasts,
And in the slow withdrawal of the tide
Unvexed awhile. Small solace could they take
From that wan radiance glistering frostily
Upon the desert seized in iron silence,
Like a false triumph over contestless Fates,
Or a mirage of life in wastes of death.
Yet were they moved to speak, and Saturn's voice,
Seeming the soul of that tremendous land
Set free in sound, startled the haughty stars:

"O Titans, gods, sustainers of the world,
Is this the end ? Must Earth go down to Chaos,
Lacking our strength, beneath the unpractised sway
Of godlings vain, precipitate with youth,
Who think, unrecking of disastrous chance,
To bind their will as reins upon the sun,
Or stand as columns to the ponderous heavens ?
Must we behold with eyes of impotence
That universal wrack, even though it whelm
These our usurpers in impartial doom
Beneath the shards and fragments of the world ?
Were it not preferable to return,
And, meeting them in fight unswervable,
Drag down the earth, ourselves, and these our foes,
One sacrifice unto the gods of Chaos ?
Why should we stay, and live the tragedy
Of power that survives its use?"

Now spake
Enceladus, when that the echoings
Of Saturn's voice had fled remote, and seemed
Dead thunders caught and flung from star to star:
"Wouldst hurl thy kingdom down the nightward gulf
Like to a stone a curious child might cast
To test the fall of some dark precipice?
Patience and caution should we take as mail,
Not rashness for a weapon—too keen sword
That cuts the strainèd knot of destiny,
Never to be tied again. Were it not best
To watch the slow procedure of the days,
That we may grasp a time more opportune
When desperation is not all our strength
Nor the foe newly filled with victory ?
Then may we hope to conquer back thy realm
For thee, not for the gods of nothingness ?"

He ceased, and after him no lesser god
Gave voice upon the shaken silences,
None venturing to risk comparison,
Inevitable then, of eloquence
With his; but, like the ambiguity
Of signal stars and lesser overcast
And merged in one confusion by the moon,
Silence possessed that throng, till Saturn rose.
Around his form the light intensified,
And strengthened with addition wild and strange,
Investing him as with a ghostly robe
And gathering like a crown about his brow.
His sword, whereon the shadows lay like rust,
He took, and dipping it within the moon
Made clean its length of blade and from it cast
Swift flickerings at the stars. And then his voice
Came like a torrent, and from out his eyes
Streamed wilder power that mingled with the sound.

And his resurgent power, in glance and word,
Poured through the Titans' souls and was become
The fountains of their own, and at his flame
Their fires relumined twice-rebellious rose,
Leaping against the stronghold of the stars.
And now they came where sleep,
Where, red upon the forefront of the north,
Arcturus was a beacon to the winds.
And with the flickering winds, that lightly struck
The desert dust, then sprang again in air,
They passed athwart the foreland of the north.
Against their march they saw the shrunken waste,
A rivelled region like a world grown old
Whose sterile breast knew not the lips of life
In all its epoch; or a world that was
The nurse of infant Death, ere he became
Too large, too strong for its restraining arms,
And towered athwart the suns.

And there they crossed
Metallic slopes that rang like monstrous shields
Under their tread, and dully clanging plains
Like body-mail of greater, vaster gods.
Where hills made gibbous shadows in the moon,
They heard the eldritch laughters of the wind,
Seeming the mirth of doom; and 'neath their gaze
Gaunt valleys deepened like an old despair.
Yet strode they on through the moon's fantasies,
Bold with resolve, across a land like doubt.

And now they passed among huge mountain-bulks,
Themselves like ambulant mountains, moving slow
'Mid fettered brethren, adding weight and gloom
To that mute conclave great against the stars.
Emerging thence the Titans marched where still
Their own portentous shadows went before
Like night that fled but shrunk not, dusking all
That desert way.

And now they came where steep,
The sleep of weary victory, had seized
The younger gods as captives, borne beyond
All flight of mounting battle-ecstasies
In that deep triumph of forgetfulness.
Upon that sleep the striding Titans broke,
Vague and immense at first like forming dreams
To those disturbèd gods, in mist of drowse
Purblind and doubtful yet, though soon they knew
Their erst-defeated foes, and rising stood
In silent ranks expectant, that appeared
To move, with shaking of astonished fires
That bristled forth deployed like awful plumes
Between the brightening desert and the sky.
Then, sudden as the waking from a dream,
The battle sprang, where striving deities
Moved brightly through the whirled and stricken air,
Sweeping it to a froth of fire; and all
That ancient, deep-established desert rocked,
Shaken as by an onset of the gulfs
Of gathered and impatient Chaos, while,
Above the place where central battle burned,
The moon and stars drew back in dazzlement,
Paling to more secluded distances.
Lo, where the moon's uncertain light had wrought
Disordered shadows and chimeras dim,
Hiding the hideous desert with mirage,
Or deepening it with gulfs and glooms of hell,
Mightier confusion, chaos absolute,
Was grown the one thing sure in sky or world.
Typhonian maelstrorns caught in fiery storms,
Torn by the sweep of Olympian weaponries—
Crescented blades that met with rounds of shields;
Grappling of shapes, seen through the riven blaze
An instant, then once more obscure and known
Only by giant heavings of that war
Of furious gods and rousèd elements—
Theses, round one swollen center, hung ensphered
Upon the blasted sand and molten rocks.

So huge that chaos, complicate within
With movements of gigantic legionry,
Where Jove and Saturn, thunder-crested, led
In onset never stayed so strong the strife
Of differing impulse, that decision found
No foothold, till that first confusion should
In ordered conflict re-arrange and stand
With its true forces known. This seemed remote
With that wide struggle pending terribly,
As if the spectrumed wings of Time had made
A truce with white Eternity, and both
Stood watching from afar.

Through drifts of haze
The broadening moon, made ominous with red,
Glared from the westering night. And now that war
Built for itself, far up, a cope of cloud
And drew it down, far off, upon all sides,
Impervious to the moon and sworded stars.
And by their own wild light the gods fought on
'Neath that stupendous concave like a sky
Filled and illumined with glare of shattered suns.
And cast by their own light, upon that sky
The gods' own shadows moved like shapen gloom,
Phantasmagoric, changed and amplified,
A shifting frieze that flickered dreadfully
In spectral battle indecisive. Then,
Swift as it had begun, the contest turned
And on the heaving Titans' massive front
It seemed that all the motion and the strength
Self-thwarting and confounded, of that strife,
Was flung in centered impact terrible,
with rush of all that fire, tempestuous-blown
As if before some wind of further space
Striking the earth. Lo, all the Titans' flame
Bent back upon themselves and they were hurled
In vaster disarray, with vanguard piled
On rear and center. Saturn could not stem
The loosened torrents of long-pent defeat;
He, with his hosts, was but as drift thereon,
Borne wildly down the whelmed and reeling world.

Hurling like slanted rain, the violet levin
Fell over that flight of Titans, and behind,
In striding menace, all-victorious Jove
Loomed like some craggy cloud with thunders crowned
And footed with the winds. In that defeat,
With Jove's pursuit deepened and manifold,
Few found escape unscathed, and some went down
Like senile suns that grapple with the dark,
And reel in flame tremendous, and are still.

Ebbing, the battle left those elder gods
Thrown back on iron shores of their despair,
A darker and a vaster Tartarus.
The victor gods, their storms and thunders spent,
Went dwindling northward like embattled clouds,
And, where the lingering haze of light dissolved,
The pallor of the dawn began to spread
On darkness purple like the pain of death.
Ringed with that desolation Saturn stood
Mute, and the Titans answered unto him
With brother silence. Motionless, they appeared
Some peristyle of topless columns great,
Alone enduring of a fallen fane
In wastes of an immenser world whence Life
And Faith have vanished, whose enshadowed orb
Verges oblivionward. And Twilight slow
Crept round those lofty shapes august and seemed
Such as might be the ghostly, muffed noon
Of mightier suns that totter down to death.

Then turned they, passing from that dismal place
Blasted anew with battle, ere the dawn,
Striding in flame athwart stupendous chasms
And wasteful plains, should overtake them there,
Bowed with too heavy a burden of defeat.
Slowly they turned, and passed upon the west
Where, like a weariness immovable
In menace huge, the plain its monstrous bulk,
The peaks its hydra heads, the whole world crouched
Against their march with the diminished stars.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Randolph Carter on the moon

From The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft

It was dark when the galley passed betwixt the Basalt Pillars of the West and the sound of the ultimate cataract swelled portentous from ahead. And the spray of that cataract rose to obscure the stars, and the deck grew damp, and the vessel reeled in the surging current of the brink. Then with a queer whistle and plunge the leap was taken, and Carter felt the terrors of nightmare as earth fell away and the great boat shot silent and comet-like into planetary space. Never before had he known what shapeless black things lurk and caper and flounder all through the aether, leering and grinning at such voyagers as may pass, and sometimes feeling about with slimy paws when some moving object excites their curiosity. These are the nameless larvae of the Other Gods, and like them are blind and without mind, and possessed of singular hungers and thirsts.

But that offensive galley did not aim as far as Carter had feared, for he soon saw that the helmsman was steering a course directly for the moon. The moon was a crescent shining larger and larger as they approached it, and shewing its singular craters and peaks uncomfortably. The ship made for the edge, and it soon became clear that its destination was that secret and mysterious side which is always turned away from earth, and which no fully human person, save perhaps the dreamer Snireth-Ko, has ever beheld. The close aspect of the moon as the galley drew near proved very disturbing to Carter, and he did not like the size and shape of the ruins which crumbled here and there. The dead temples on the mountains were so placed that they could have glorified no suitable or wholesome gods, and in the symmetries of the broken columns there seemed to be some dark and inner meaning which did not invite solution. And what the structure and proportions of the olden worshippers could have been, Carter steadily refused to conjecture.

When the ship rounded the edge, and sailed over those lands unseen by man, there appeared in the queer landscape certain signs of life, and Carter saw many low, broad, round cottages in fields of grotesque whitish fungi. He noticed that these cottages had no windows, and thought that their shape suggested the huts of Esquimaux. Then he glimpsed the oily waves of a sluggish sea, and knew that the voyage was once more to be by water—or at least through some liquid. The galley struck the surface with a peculiar sound, and the odd elastic way the waves received it was very perplexing to Carter.

They now slid along at great speed, once passing and hailing another galley of kindred form, but generally seeing nothing but that curious sea and a sky that was black and star-strewn even though the sun shone scorchingly in it.

There presently rose ahead the jagged hills of a leprous-looking coast, and Carter saw the thick unpleasant grey towers of a city. The way they leaned and bent, the manner in which they were clustered, and the fact that they had no windows at all, was very disturbing to the prisoner; and he bitterly mourned the folly which had made him sip the curious wine of that merchant with the humped turban. As the coast drew nearer, and the hideous stench of that city grew stronger, he saw upon the jagged hills many forests, some of whose trees he recognized as akin to that solitary moon-tree in the enchanted wood of earth, from whose sap the small brown Zoogs ferment their curious wine.

Carter could now distinguish moving figures on the noisome wharves ahead, and the better he saw them the worse he began to fear and detest them. For they were not men at all, or even approximately men, but great greyish-white slippery things which could expand and contract at will, and whose principal shape—though it often changed—was that of a sort of toad without any eyes, but with a curious vibrating mass of short pink tentacles on the end of its blunt, vague snout. These objects were waddling busily about the wharves, moving bales and crates and boxes with preternatural strength, and now and then hopping on or off some anchored galley with long oars in their forepaws. And now and then one would appear driving a herd of clumping slaves, which indeed were approximate human beings with wide mouths like those merchants who traded in Dylath-Leen; only these herds, being without turbans or shoes or clothing, did not seem so very human after all. Some of the slaves—the fatter ones, whom a sort of overseer would pinch experimentally—were unloaded from ships and nailed in crates which workers pushed into the low warehouses or loaded on great lumbering vans.

Once a van was hitched and driven off, and the, fabulous thing which drew it was such that Carter gasped, even after having seen the other monstrosities of that hateful place. Now and then a small herd of slaves dressed and turbaned like the dark merchants would be driven aboard a galley, followed by a great crew of the slippery toad-things as officers, navigators, and rowers. And Carter saw that the almost-human creatures were reserved for the more ignominious kinds of servitude which required no strength, such as steering and cooking, fetching and carrying, and bargaining with men on the earth or other planets where they traded. These creatures must have been convenient on earth, for they were truly not unlike men when dressed and carefully shod and turbaned, and could haggle in the shops of men without embarrassment or curious explanations. But most of them, unless lean or ill-favoured, were unclothed and packed in crates and drawn off in lumbering lorries by fabulous things. Occasionally other beings were unloaded and crated; some very like these semi-humans, some not so similar, and some not similar at all. And he wondered if any of the poor stout black men of Parg were left to be unloaded and crated and shipped inland in those obnoxious drays.

When the galley landed at a greasy-looking quay of spongy rock a nightmare horde of toad-things wiggled out of the hatches, and two of them seized Carter and dragged him ashore. The smell and aspect of that city are beyond telling, and Carter held only scattered images of the tiled streets and black doorways and endless precipices of grey vertical walls without windows. At length he was dragged within a low doorway and made to climb infinite steps in pitch blackness. It was, apparently, all one to the toad-things whether it were light or dark. The odour of the place was intolerable, and when Carter was locked into a chamber and left alone he scarcely had strength to crawl around and ascertain its form and dimensions. It was circular, and about twenty feet across.

From then on time ceased to exist. At intervals food was pushed in, but Carter would not touch it. What his fate would be, he did not know; but he felt that he was held for the coming of that frightful soul and messenger of infinity's Other Gods, the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep. Finally, after an unguessed span of hours or days, the great stone door swung wide again, and Carter was shoved down the stairs and out into the red-litten streets of that fearsome city. It was night on the moon, and all through the town were stationed slaves bearing torches.

In a detestable square a sort of procession was formed; ten of the toad-things and twenty-four almost human torch-bearers, eleven on either side, and one each before and behind. Carter was placed in the middle of the line; five toad-things ahead and five behind, and one almost-human torch-bearer on either side of him. Certain of the toad-things produced disgustingly carven flutes of ivory and made loathsome sounds. To that hellish piping the column advanced out of the tiled streets and into nighted plains of obscene fungi, soon commencing to climb one of the lower and more gradual hills that lay behind the city. That on some frightful slope or blasphemous plateau the crawling chaos waited, Carter could not doubt; and he wished that the suspense might soon be over. The whining of those impious flutes was shocking, and he would have given worlds for some even half-normal sound; but these toad-things had no voices, and the slaves did not talk.

Then through that star-specked darkness there did come a normal sound. It rolled from the higher hills, and from all the jagged peaks around it was caught up and echoed in a swelling pandaemoniac chorus. It was the midnight yell of the cat, and Carter knew at last that the old village folk were right when they made low guesses about the cryptical realms which are known only to cats, and to which the elders among cats repair by stealth nocturnally, springing from high housetops. Verily, it is to the moon's dark side that they go to leap and gambol on the hills and converse with ancient shadows, and here amidst that column of foetid things Carter heard their homely, friendly cry, and thought of the steep roofs and warm hearths and little lighted windows of home.

Now much of the speech of cats was known to Randolph Carter, and in this far terrible place he uttered the cry that was suitable. But that he need not have done, for even as his lips opened he heard the chorus wax and draw nearer, and saw swift shadows against the stars as small graceful shapes leaped from hill to hill in gathering legions. The call of the clan had been given, and before the foul procession had time even to be frightened a cloud of smothering fur and a phalanx of murderous claws were tidally and tempestuously upon it. The flutes stopped, and there were shrieks in the night. Dying almost-humans screamed, and cats spit and yowled and roared, but the toad-things made never a sound as their stinking green ichor oozed fatally upon that porous earth with the obscene fungi.

It was a stupendous sight while the torches lasted, and Carter had never before seen so many cats. Black, grey, and white; yellow, tiger, and mixed; common, Persian, and Manx; Thibetan, Angora, and Egyptian; all were there in the fury of battle, and there hovered over them some trace of that profound and inviolate sanctity which made their goddess great in the temples of Bubastis. They would leap seven strong at the throat of an almost-human or the pink tentacled snout of a toad-thing and drag it down savagely to the fungous plain, where myriads of their fellows would surge over it and into it with the frenzied claws and teeth of a divine battle-fury. Carter had seized a torch from a stricken slave, but was soon overborne by the surging waves of his loyal defenders. Then he lay in the utter blackness hearing the clangour of war and the shouts of the victors, and feeling the soft paws of his friends as they rushed to and fro over him in the fray.

At last awe and exhaustion closed his eyes, and when he opened them again it was upon a strange scene. The great shining disc of the earth, thirteen times greater than that of the moon as we see it, had risen with floods of weird light over the lunar landscape; and across all those leagues of wild plateau and ragged crest there squatted one endless sea of cats in orderly array. Circle on circle they reached, and two or three leaders out of the ranks were licking his face and purring to him consolingly. Of the dead slaves and toad-things there were not many signs, but Carter thought he saw one bone a little way off in the open space between him and the warriors.

Carter now spoke with the leaders in the soft language of cats, and learned that his ancient friendship with the species was well known and often spoken of in the places where cats congregate. He had not been unmarked in Ulthar when he passed through, and the sleek old cats had remembered how he patted them after they had attended to the hungry Zoogs who looked evilly at a small black kitten. And they recalled, too, how he had welcomed the very little kitten who came to see him at the inn, and how he had given it a saucer of rich cream in the morning before he left. The grandfather of that very little kitten was the leader of the army now assembled, for he had seen the evil procession from a far hill and recognized the prisoner as a sworn friend of his kind on earth and in the land of dream.

A yowl now came from the farther peak, and the old leader paused abruptly in his conversation. It was one of the army's outposts, stationed on the highest of the mountains to watch the one foe which Earth's cats fear; the very large and peculiar cats from Saturn, who for some reason have not been oblivious of the charm of our moon's dark side. They are leagued by treaty with the evil toad-things, and are notoriously hostile to our earthly cats; so that at this juncture a meeting would have been a somewhat grave matter.

After a brief consultation of generals, the cats rose and assumed a closer formation, crowding protectingly around Carter and preparing to take the great leap through space back to the housetops of our earth and its dreamland. The old field-marshal advised Carter to let himself be borne along smoothly and passively in the massed ranks of furry leapers, and told him how to spring when the rest sprang and land gracefully when the rest landed. He also offered to deposit him in any spot he desired, and Carter decided on the city of Dylath-Leen whence the black galley had set out; for he wished to sail thence for Oriab and the carven crest Ngranek, and also to warn the people of the city to have no more traffick with black galleys, if indeed that traffick could be tactfully and judiciously broken off. Then, upon a signal, the cats all leaped gracefully with their friend packed securely in their midst; while in a black cave on an unhallowed summit of the moon-mountains still vainly waited the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.

The leap of the cats through space was very swift; and being surrounded by his companions Carter did not see this time the great black shapelessnesses that lurk and caper and flounder in the abyss. Before he fully realised what had happened he was back in his familiar room at the inn at Dylath-Leen, and the stealthy, friendly cats were pouring out of the window in streams. The old leader from Ulthar was the last to leave, and as Carter shook his paw he said he would be able to get home by cockcrow. When dawn came, Carter went downstairs and learned that a week had elapsed since his capture and leaving. There was still nearly a fortnight to wait for the ship bound toward Oriab, and during that time he said what he could against the black galleys and their infamous ways. Most of the townsfolk believed him; yet so fond were the jewellers of great rubies that none would wholly promise to cease trafficking with the wide-mouthed merchants. If aught of evil ever befalls Dylath-Leen through such traffick, it will not be his fault.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The First Men in the Moon

Today is the 40th anniversary of the momentous day when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon. Even though the Apollo program was more an exercise in nationalist flag planting than a genuine quest for scientific knowledge, its importance can't be ignored. Even today only a handful of people have set foot on another world.

We've always dreamed of going to the moon. Lucian, of Samosata (Λουκιανός, ο Σαμοσατεύς) was one of the first to write of it in his comic tales. Others followed suit, one of the most famous obviously being Jules Verne, whose books De la Terre à la Lune (1865) and Autour de la lune (1870) were almost prophetic in their depiction of a launch from Florida. A few year later H. G. Wells tackled the subject with typical verve, producing the memorable novel The First Men in the Moon, which I plan to re-read in celebration.

The BBC is giving lots of attention to the anniversary. It has a page devoted to the historic moon landing and its legacy with lots of great content. Plus the BBC Radio 4 show Book at Bedtime is going to feature an abridged reading of Wells' The First Men in the Moon over the next few nights. Sounds like something to give an ear to.

And even as I remember the tremendous achievements of the past I won't forget the 13 astronauts in orbit right now, who are braving the rigors of space in order to pave the way for future voyages.

Update: NASA is not unexpectedly Celebrating the 'Giant Leap' with numerous special features, including an interactive Apollo 11 Landing Site. Well worth checking out.

Update update: The New York Times has a special section devoted to the Apollo 11 anniversary with lots of great articles.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters

Quirk Books' follow-up to their book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I have no intention of reading either, but the trailers for them are amusing in a "this is the kind of thing Lister would do in the virtual reality suite" kind of way.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Æneas and the Cyclops

The Æneid of Virgil (Book III, 622-783)

"Veiled at her shrines in Phrygian hood we stand,
And chief to Juno, mindful of the seer,
Burnt-offerings pay, as pious rites demand.
This done, the sailyards to the wind we veer,
And leave the Grecians and the land of fear.
Lo, there Tarentum's harbour and the town,
If fame be true, of Hercules, and here
Lacinium's queen and Caulon's towers are known,
And Scylaceum's rocks, with shattered ships bestrown.

"Far off is seen, above the billowy mere,
Trinacrian Ætna, and the distant roar
Of ocean and the beaten rocks we hear,
And the loud burst of breakers on the shore;
High from the shallows leap the surges hoar,
And surf and sand mix eddying. 'Behold
Charybdis!' cries Anchises, ''tis the shore,
The dreaded rocks that Helenus foretold.
Row, comrades, for dear life, and let the oars catch hold.'

"He spake, 'twas done; and Palinurus first
Turns the prow leftward: to the left we ply
With oars and sail, and shun the rocks accurst.
Now curls the wave, and lifts us to the sky,
Now sinks and, plunging in the gulf we lie.
Thrice roar the caverned shore-cliffs, thrice the spray
Whirls up and wets the dewy stars on high.
Thus tired we drift, as sinks the wind and day,
Unto the Cyclops' shore, all weetless of the way.

"It was a spacious harbour, sheltered deep
From access of the winds, but looming vast
With awful ravage, Ætna's neighbouring steep
Thundered aloud, and, dark with clouds, upcast
Smoke and red cinders in a whirlwind's blast.
Live balls of flame, with showers of sparks, upflew
And licked the stars, and in combustion massed,
Torn rocks, her ragged entrails, molten new,
The rumbling mount belched forth from out the boiling stew.

"Here, while from Ætna's furnaces the flame
Bursts forth, Enceladus, 'tis said, doth lie,
Scorched by the lightning. As his wearied frame
He shifts, Trinacria, trembling at the cry
Moans through her shores, and smoke involves the sky.
There all night long, screened by the woods, we hear
The dreadful sounds, and know not whence nor why,
For stars are none, nor planet gilds the sphere;
Night holds the moon in clouds, and heaven is dark and drear.

"Now rose the Day-star from the East, and cleared
The mists, that melted with advancing Morn,
When suddenly from out the woods appeared
An uncouth form, a creature wan and worn,
Scarce like a man, in piteous plight forlorn.
Suppliant his hands he stretches to the shore;
We turn and look on tatters tagged with thorn,
Dire squalor and a length of beard,--what more,
A Greek, to Troy erewhile in native arms sent o'er.

"He scared to see the Dardan garb once more
And Trojan arms, stood faltering with dismay,
Then rushed, with prayer and weeping, to the shore.
'O, by the stars, and by the Gods, I pray,
And life's pure breath, this light of genial day,
Take me, O Teucrians; wheresoe'er ye go,
Enough to bear me from this land away.
I once was of the Danaan crews, I know,
And came to Trojan homes and Ilion as a foe.

"'For that, if that be such a crime to you,
O strew me forth upon the watery waste,
And drown me in the deep. If death be due,
'Twere sweet of death by human hands to taste.'
He cried, and, grovelling, our knees embraced,
And, clasping, clung to us. We bid him stand
And tell his birth and trouble; and in haste
Himself the sire Anchises pledged his hand,
And he at length took heart, and answered our demand.

"'My name is Achemenides. I come
From Ithaca. To Troy I sailed the sea
With evil-starred Ulysses, leaving home
And father, Adamastus;--poor was he,
And O! if such my poverty could be.
Me here my thoughtless comrades, hurrying fast
To quit the cruel threshold and be free,
Leave in the Cyclops' cavern. Dark and vast
That house of slaughtered men, and many a foul repast.

"'Himself so tall, he strikes the lofty skies
(O gods, rid earth of such a monstrous brood!),
None dare with speech accost, nor mortal eyes
Behold him. Human entrails are his food.
Myself have seen him, gorged with brains and blood,
Pluck forth two comrades, in his cave bent back,
And dash them till the threshold swam with blood,
Then crunch the gobbets in his teeth, while black
With gore the limbs still quivered, and the bones did crack:

"'Not unavenged; nor brave Ulysses deigned
To brook such outrage. In that hour of tyne
True to himself the Ithacan remained.
When, gorged with food, and belching gore and wine,
With drooping neck, the giant snored supine,
Then, closing round him, to the gods we pray,
Each at his station, as the lots assign,
And where, beneath the frowning forehead, lay,
Huge as an Argive shield, or like the lamp of day,

"'His one great orb, deep in the monster's head
We drive the pointed weapon, joy'd at last
To wreak such vengeance for our comrades dead.
But fly, unhappy Trojans, fly, and cast
Your cables from the shore. Such and so vast
As Polyphemus, when the cave's huge door
Shuts on his flocks, and for his night's repast
He milks them, lo! a hundred Cyclops more
Roam on the lofty hills, and range the winding shore.

"'Now thrice the Moon hath filled her horns with light,
And still in woods and lonely dens I lie,
And see the Cyclops stalk from height to height,
And hear their tramp, and tremble at their cry.
My food--hard berries that the boughs supply,
And roots of grass. Thus wandering, as I scanned
The distant ocean with despairing eye,
I saw your ships first bearing to the land,
And vowed, whoe'er ye proved, the strangers' slave to stand.

"'Enough, these monsters to escape; O take
My life, and tear me as you will from day,
Rather than these devour me!'--Scarce he spake,
When from the mountains to the well-known bay,
The shepherd Polyphemus gropes his way;
Huge, hideous, horrible in shape and show,
And visionless. A pine-trunk serves to stay
And guide his footsteps, and around him go
The sheep, his only joy and solace of his woe.

"Down came the giant, wading in the main,
And rinsed his gory socket from the tide,
Gnashing his teeth and moaning in his pain.
On through the deep he stalks with awful stride,
So tall, the billows scarcely wet his side.
Forthwith our flight we hasten, prickt with fear,
On board--'twas due--we let the suppliant hide,
Then, mute and breathless, cut the stern-ropes clear,
Bend to the emulous oar, and sweep the whitening mere.

"He heard, and turned his footsteps to the sound.
Short of its mark the huge arm idly fell
Outstretched, and swifter than his stride he found
The Ionian waves. Then rose a monstrous yell;
All Ocean shudders and her waves upswell;
Far off, Italia trembles with the roar,
And Ætna groans through many a winding cell,
And trooping to the call the Cyclops pour
From wood and lofty hill, and crowding fill the shore.

"We see them scowling impotent, the band
Of Ætna, towering to the stars above,
An awful conclave! Tall as oaks they stand,
Or cypresses--the lofty trees of Jove,
Or cone-clad guardians of Diana's grove.
Fain were we then, in agony of fear,
To shake the canvas to the winds, and rove
At random; natheless, we obey the seer,
Who past those fatal rocks had warned us not to steer,

"Where Scylla here, and there Charybdis lies,
And death lurks double. Backward we essay
Our course, when lo, from out Pelorus flies
The North-Wind, sent to waft us on our way.
We pass the place where, mingling with the spray,
Through narrow rocks Pantagia's stream outflows;
We see low-lying Thapsus and the bay
Of Megara. These shores the suppliant shows,
Known from the time he shared his wandering chieftain's woes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


A. E. van Vogt's novel Slan is one of the classics of the Golden Age. Originally serialized in Astounding Science-Fiction (Sep.-Dec. 1940) it tells the story of young Jommy Cross, a member of a new breed of telepathic mutants known as slan. On a trip into the capital city of Centropolis with his mother they are discovered and must run for their lives.

Long ago humans and slan had clashed in a terrible war, and to this day slans are feared and hated. This hatred is kept at a fever pitch through propaganda demonizing the mutants put out by the government of Keir Grey, dictator of the world. He also keeps young Kathleen Layton, a slan, under house arrest in his palace, much to the chagrin of John Petty, the slan-hating head of the secret police.

Jommy and his mother separate, and as he flees she is brutally gunned down. Jommy manages to hide from a murderous mob of humans, but is captured by the cunning and depraved old Granny, who hopes to exploit the young slan. Jommy's keen young mind recognizes that this is an opportunity in disguise, as he can use Granny's home as a hideout as he attempts to recover the secret of his murdered father's great scientific discovery, which lies buried under the city.

And so begins Jommy's difficult road to adulthood, as he seeks to discover other slan, fight against a sinister secret organization hostile to slan and human alike, and evade death at the hands of the dictator's secret police.

Slan doesn't rise above its pulp magazine milieu, and the coarse prose is reminiscent of many stories of that era. van Vogt's strengths are not the deftness of his writing, but in his unhindered imagination and borderline surreal plotting. Jommy's mother is no sooner introduced in the first chapter than she is killed off. These kind of abrupt turns of events occur throughout the novel, giving the plot an erratic dynamism.

Broad swaths of time pass during which Jommy grows up, which is apparently very important. Jommy is convinced he must wait until adulthood before he takes consequential action, though in the meantime he accomplishes things that many adults could only dream of achieving. And humans come off badly in this book, being portrayed as a vicious lot with no redeeming qualities. Never once do we encounter a human who sympathizes with the slan or objects to their treatment. As a result the mutant slan can't help but look like an improvement.

The climactic plot twist will leave your head spinning. It results in several pages of exposition that, while not entirely airtight, manage to bring things to a surprisingly neat conclusion.

Slan is not van Vogt's best novel, but it is the one for which he's best remembered. And it is representative of much of his output. Although a somewhat dated work that's a bit rough around the edges, it has something of the vitality of those heady days of the Golden Age during which the genre was catching it's stride. Even after all these years it's a reminder that a wild imagination and wild twists of plot can still transport readers into strange worlds, and maybe just cause then to mutate.

Slan is available from your public library, or for purchase at your local independent bookstore.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Summer Moon

by Clark Ashton Smith

How is it, O moon, that melting
Unstintedly, prodigally,
On the peaks' hard majesty,
Till they seem diaphanous
And fluctuant as a veil,
And pouring thy rapturous light
Through pine and oak and laurel,
Till the summer-sharpened green,
Softening and tremulous,
Is a luster of liquid silver—
How is it that I find,
When I turn again to thee,
That thy lost and wasted light
Is regained in one magic breath ?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is that a sword...

...or are you just glad to see me?

Conan Fan Art Week continues over at Crom!, and needless to say the influence of Frank Frazetta looms large. Almost large than that of Robert E. Howard himself. Nearly every one of the fan renditions depict the Cimmerian as nearly naked, with the exception of a fur kilt and some jewelry. This despite the fact that he's never described that way in the actual stories, where he almost always wears armor of some sort, especially when on the battlefield. It just goes to show that once an image becomes fixed in the popular imagination it stays there no matter how at odds it is with what it's supposed to be depicting.

And no points for recognizing the psycho-sexual dynamics behind the fascination with half-naked, muscle-bound men wielding swords. Lets just leave the slash puns aside and put it down to male power fantasy, shall we?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Easter Island

by Robert E. Howard

How many weary centuries have flown
Since strange-eyed beings walked this ancient shore,
Hearing, as we, the green Pacific's roar,
Hewing fantastic gods from sullen stone!
The sands are bare; the idols stand alone.
Impotent 'gainst the years was all their lore:
They are forgot in ages dim and hoar;
Yet still, as then, the long tide-surges drone.

What dreams had they that shaped these uncouth things?
Before these gods what victims bled and died?
What purple galleys swept along the strand
That bore the tribute of what dim sea-kings?
But now, they reign o'er a forgotten land,
Gazing forever out beyond the tide.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Aeneas vs. Harpies

The Aeneid (Book III, 190-270)

"Winds roll the waters, and the great seas rise.
Dispersed we welter on the gulfs. Damp night
Has snatched with rain the heaven from our eyes,
And storm-mists in a mantle wrapt the light.
Flash after flash, and for a moment bright,
Quick lightnings rend the welkin. Driven astray
We wander, robbed of reckoning, reft of sight.
No difference now between the night and day
E'en Palinurus sees, nor recollects the way.

"Three days, made doubtful by the blinding gloom,
As many nights, when not a star is seen,
We wander on, uncertain of our doom.
At last the fourth glad daybreak clears the scene,
And rising land, and opening uplands green,
And rolling smoke at distance greet the view.
No longer tarrying; to our oars we lean.
Down drop the sails; in order ranged, each crew
Flings up the foam to heaven, and sweeps the sparkling blue.

"Saved from the sea, the Strophades we gain,
So called in Greece, where dwells, with Harpies, dire
Celaeno, in the vast Ionian main,
Since, forced from Phineus' palace to retire,
They fled their former banquet. Heavenly ire
Ne'er sent a pest more loathsome; ne'er were seen
Worse plagues to issue from the Stygian mire--
Birds maiden-faced, but trailing filth obscene,
With taloned hands and looks for ever pale and lean.

"The harbour gained, lo! herds of oxen bright
And goats untended browse the pastures fair.
We, sword in hand, make onset, and invite
The gods and Jove himself the spoil to share,
And piling couches, banquet on the fare.
When straight, down-swooping from the hills meanwhile
The Harpies flap their clanging wings, and tear
The food, and all with filthy touch defile,
And, mixt with screams, uprose a sickening stench and vile.

"Once more, within a cavern screened from view,
Where circling trees a rustling shade supply,
The boards are spread, the altars blaze anew.
Back, from another quarter of the sky,
Dark-ambushed, round the clamorous Harpies fly
With taloned claws, and taste and taint the prey.
To arms I call my comrades, and defy
The loathsome brood to battle. They obey,
And swords and bucklers hide amid the grass away.

"So when their screams descending fill the strand,
Misenus from his outlook sounds the fray.
All to the strange encounter, sword in hand,
Rush forth, these miscreants of the deep to slay.
No wounds they take, no weapon wins its way.
Swiftly they soar, all leaving, ere they go,
Their filthy traces on the half-gorged prey.
One perched, Celaeno, on a rock, and lo,
Thus croaked the dismal seer her prophecy of woe.

"'War, too, Laomedon's twice-perjured race!
War do ye bring, our cattle stol'n and slain?
And unoffending Harpies would ye chase
Forth from their old, hereditary reign?
Mark then my words and in your breasts retain.
What Jove, the Sire omnipotent, of old
Revealed to Phoebus, and to me again
Phoebus Apollo at his hest foretold,
I now to thee and thine, the Furies' Queen, unfold.

"'Ye seek Italia and, with favouring wind,
Shall reach Italia, and her ports attain.
But ne'er the town, by Destiny assigned,
Your walls shall gird, till famine's pangs constrain
To gnaw your boards, in quittance for our slain.'
So spake the Fiend, and backward to the wood
Soared on the wing. Cold horror froze each vein.
Aghast and shuddering my comrades stood;
Down sank at once each heart, and terror chilled the blood.

"No more with arms, for peace with vows and prayer
We sue, and pardon of these powers implore,
Or be they goddesses or birds of air
Obscene and dire; and lifting on the shore
His hands, Anchises doth the gods adore.
'O Heaven!' he cries, 'avert these threats; be kind
And stay the curse, and vex with plagues no more
A pious folk,' then bids the crews unbind
The stern-ropes, loose the sheets and spread them to the wind.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Muse of Atlantis

Clark Ashton Smith

Will you not join me in Atlantis, where we will go down through streets of blue and yellow marble to the wharves of orichalch, and choose us a galley with a golden Eros for figure-head, and sails of Tyrian sendal? With mariners that knew Odysseus, and beautiful amber-breasted slaves from the mountain-vales of Lemuria, we will lift anchor for the unknown fortunate isles of the outer sea; and, sailing in the wake of an opal sunset, will lose that ancient land in the glaucous twilight, and see from our couch of ivory and satin the rising of unknown stars and perished planets. Perhaps we will not return, but will follow the tropic summer from isle to halcyon isle, across the amaranthine seas of myth and fable; we will eat the lotus, and the fruit of lands whereof Odysseus never dreamt; and drink the pallid wines of faery, grown in a vale of perpetual moonlight. I will find for you a necklace of rosy-tinted pearls, and a necklace of yellow rubies, and crown you with precious corals that have the semblance, of sanguine-coloured blossoms. We will roam in the marts of forgotten cities of jasper, and carnelian-builded ports beyond Cathay; and I will buy you a gown of peacock azure damascened with copper and gold and vermilion; and a gown of black samite with runes of orange, woven by fantastic sorcery without the touch of hands, in a dim land of spells and philtres.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A. E. van Vogt: Man and Superman

A. E. van Vogt was one of the leading lights of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, one of the most influential writers from that era, and, with the exception of L. Ron Hubbard, one of the weirdest.

van Vogt was a Canadian who moved to the U.S. after having established himself as a science fiction author of note. His stories had an acuteness and intricacy that drew readers in and left a memorable impression. A common theme of his was that of the burgeoning psychic superman man who must face innumerable trials while coming into his own. Like H. P. Lovecraft and H. G. Wells before him, van Vogt often turned to his dreams for inspiration. This gave the his novels a somewhat surreal dimension that served to intensify the extraordinary events they dramatized.

In the span of a decade, van Vogt produced stories at an almost superhuman rate, as though in imitation of his own protagonists. For the most part serialized in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction, these became the tales for which he remains best known. It was during this period that he wrote novels like Slan, a tale of telepathic, superhuman mutants who are persecuted by human society. His other books of this period include The Weapons Shops of Isher, about trans-dimension arms dealers who fight against tyranny; The Worlds of Null-A, a novel based on the teachings of General Semantics; and The Book of Ptath, about an amnesiac who must regain his memories to overcome his enemies.

van Vogt also coined the term fix-up, describing the technique by which an author takes a series of separate stories and combines them as a novel. He used this device to connect many of his own earlier stories as the memorable books The Voyage of the Space Beagle, about an inter-galactic space exploration mission, and The War Against the Rull, an alien invasion tale involving shape-shifting extraterrestrials.

van Vogt's fascination with psi-powered superhumans was no idle fancy. He believed that humans had vast and mysterious potential that could be unlocked with the right training. When L. Ron Hubbard's essay "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" appeared in the pages of Astounding in 1950 alongside one of his own stories it fell on sympathetic ears. van Vogt threw himself behind Hubbard's new "science" with a passion that left no room for mundane pursuits like writing. For over a decade his pen fell silent as he devoted himself to Dianetics.

Eventually he returned to the field, producing a few noteworthy titles like The Silkie and The Battle of Forever, But for the most part his later works did little to enhance his reputation. And in the meantime his star had fallen. Between his involvement with Hubbard's controversial cult and criticism like Damon Knight's scathing essay "Cosmic Jerrybuilder," van Vogt's reputation had been seriously tarnished and he was largely overshadowed by his peers, Asimov and Heinlein.

But his influence lives on in countless sf works down to this day, both directly and indirectly. Some subsequent works were homages, like Philip K. Dick's interrogation of the paranoid construct that is game theory, Solar Lottery. Charles L. Harness can be said to have beat van Vogt at his own game with his masterful novel Flight into Yesterday. And given that Harness was a direct influence on Frank Herbert's Dune series, it's fair to say that they are the indirect heirs of van Vogt. Ian Wallace's Croyd series of space operas are written very much in the mold of van Vogt. Clearly Marvel comics borrowed heavily from both Slan, for their X-Men title, and The War Against the Rull for their alien Skrull. And the movie Alien takes its plot from one of his early stories, a fact that resulted in a successful lawsuit against the filmmakers.

van Vogt's influence even extends around the globe. Keiko Takemiya's 1977 manga, Terra e... (地球へ…), recently made into an impressive anime series, is an homage to Slan, building on many of the novels elements. Perhaps the most surprising, and most overlooked, indication of van Vogt's influence can be seen in Jean-Luc Godard's film Alphaville, which can be viewed as a reply to The Worlds of Null-A. In the film the protagonist, Lemmy Caution, is taken to the Institute of General Semantics, the same organization that dominates van Vogt's novel. But for Godard, van Vogt's vision of a logical, computer controlled society is a place of dehumanizing existential dread. Here the characters are redeemed not by superhuman powers but by human emotion.

And so van Vogt, despite his foibles and shortcomings, remains one of the legends of the Golden Age and serves as a reminder that, when it comes to science fiction, man can become superman.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hierarchy of respectability

There seems to be a sort of hierarchy of literary respectability in the sf genre. At the top are the recognized literary figures who write novels using sf tropes. Examples include Michael Chabon, Anthony Burgess, and George Orwell. These authors don't usually consider themselves sf writers, and sometimes object to having their works described as sf. That's because the genre is considered to be in some way disreputable, something David Barnett discussed in his article, "Science fiction is the genre that dare not speak its name."

Then there are the talented writers who cut their teeth writing sf, but who have gained a broader recognition. I'm thinking here of Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, Stanislaw Lem, Chip Delaney, and others. Relieved at having their talent recognized, some of them try to distance themselves from their genre launching pad. As Bruce Sterling once colorfully put it, they managed to "wriggle out, somehow, barely, gasping and stinking of rocket fuel." So now authors like Harlan Ellison declaim that they never, ever wrote science fiction, and Michael Moorcock insists that he finds spaceships boring.

Further down are the comic books authors. These are the Neil Gaimans and Alan Moores. The current faddishness of comics has increased their cache of late, but it's still the case that comics have an even worse reputation than most sf writings.

At at the lowest level we find the game designers who have turned to fiction. Here are Aaron Alston, Mike Stackpole, Ken St. Andre, et al. Regardless of the talent they display they write under the shadow of the aesthetic taboo that you must never novelize your RPG campaign (something they don't do).

Maybe someday we'll escape such stratification. As readers we should do our best to put our preconceptions aside and judge books solely on the artistic virtues the writer displays. This seems to be happening more often. Comic books have lost some of the stigma they used to carry; sf author Chris Beckett just beat out several mainstream writers for a literary prize; and Ryo Mizuno broke all the rules by turning his RPG campaign into a series of popular novels. So maybe the day is at hand when we can enjoy author's works based solely on their own merits rather than where they fall in an artificial spectrum.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Galactic Patrol

The Website at the End of the Universe relays the good news that J. Michael Straczynski is hard at work on a big screen adaptation of Doc Smith's classic Lensman space operas. It's early days yet, but it's hard for me not to feel excited about this. I'll keep my fingers crossed that it actually gets made.

And for some reason QuasarDragon has stopped linking to the sf stories being added to Project Gutenberg. I'm not sure why, but he's gone back to only listing the Manybooks versions. So just keep in mind that those Manybooks texts wouldn't be available without the selfless hard work of the various Project Gutenberg volunteers who are saving these sf gems from obscurity and who depend on your donations.

Also, Bibliophile Stalker points to Locus Online's reporting of Edmond Hamilton Day. "On July 18, 2009, Kinsman, Ohio will be celebrating Edmond Hamilton Day, honoring "The Dean of Science Fiction" and Kinsman resident." So mark your calenders and smash some suns.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Clark Ashton Smith

As drear and barren as the glooms of Death,
It lies, a windless land of livid dawns,
Nude to a desolate firmament, with hills
That seem the gibbous bones of the mummied Earth,
And plains whose hollow Face is rivelled deep
With gullies twisting like a serpent's track.
The leprous touch of Death is on its stones,
Where, for his token visible, the Head
Is throned upon a heap of monstrous rocks
Rough-mounded like some shattered pyramid
In a thwartly cloven hill-ravine, that seems
The unhealing scar of huge Tellurian wars.
Her lethal beauty crowned with twining snakes
That mingle with her hair, the Gorgon reigns.
Her eyes are clouds wherein black lightnings lurk,
Yet, even as men that seek the glance of Life,
The gazers come, where, coiled and serpent-swift,
Those levins wait. As round an altar-base
Her victims lie, distorted, blackened forms
Of postured horror smitten into stone—
Time caught in meshes of Eternity—
Drawn back from dust and ruin of the years,
And given to all the future of the world.
The land is claimed of Death: the daylight comes
Half-strangled in the changing webs of cloud
That unseen spiders of bewildered winds
Weave and unweave across the lurid sun
In upper air. Below, no zephyr comes
To break with life the circling spell of doom.
Long vapor-serpents twist about the moon,
And in the windy murkness of the sky
The guttering stars are wild as candle-flames
That near the socket.

Thus the land shall be,
And Death shall wait, throned in Medusa's eyes,
Till in the irremeable webs of night
The sun is snared, and the corroded moon
A dust upon the gulfs, and all the stars
Rotted and fallen like rivets from the sky,
Letting the darkness down upon all things.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pirates of the Gorm

Since QuasarDragon has started adding links to Project Gutenberg texts this is getting redundant, but here are a few more classic sf tales now in the public domain. Including one of the Hawk Carse stories, which were very popular back in the day, despite basically being Wild West yarns transposed into outer space. But since that seems to be all the rage amongst some people nowadays maybe they'll catch on again, although the crude racial attitudes may put some readers off. Judge for yourself.

Operation Earthworm by Joe Archibald (Fantastic Universe, September 1955)

'Septimus Spink didn't need to read Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." He had more amazing ideas of his own.'

The Bluff of the Hawk by Anthony Gilmore (Astounding Stories, May 1932)

'A trick? Carse was famed for them. A trap? But how?'

Pirates of the Gorm by Nathan Schachner (Astounding Stories, May 1932)

'The trail of vanished space ships leads Grant Pemberton to a marvellous lake of fire.'

Friday, July 3, 2009

Salvage in Space

From Project Gutenberg, some more "clean, interesting, vivid" stories from the early days of the sf genre.

Salvage in Space by Jack Williamson (Astounding Stories, March 1933)

"To Thad Allen, meteor miner, comes the dangerous bonanza of a derelict rocket-flier manned by death invisible."

Priestess of the Flame by Sewell Peaslee Wright (Astounding Stories, June 1932)

"Commander John Hanson recounts the extraordinary story of Liane, Priestess of the Flame."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Issahar Artifacts

Project Gutenberg presents more vintage sf stories.

The Issahar Artifacts by Jesse F. Bone (Amazing Science Fiction Stories, April 1960)

"Lincoln said it eons ago.... It took a speck of one-celled plant life on a world parsecs away to prove it for all the galaxy."

Now We Are Three by Joe L. Hensley (Fantastic Universe, August 1957)

"It didn't matter that he had quit. He was still one of the guilty. He had seen it in her eyes and in the eyes of others."

No Hiding Place by Richard R. Smith (Fantastic Universe, November 1956)

"The Earth was enveloped in atomic fire and the ship was a prize of war. But disaster may make victory mandatory."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Here's a trailer from Twitch for director Noboru Iguchi's amazingly outlandish new film RoboGeisha.

[via Bam! Kapow!]

Wow! A little too much guro for me, but it looks like preposterous fun. The only thing that could make a film like this better would be Bruce Campbell.