Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallowe'en in a Suburb

by H. P. Lovecraft

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves through the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral power
Spreads sleep o'er the cosmic throne,
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb's black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penned,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

The Stowaway

Today Project Gutenberg adds two more stories from the pages of If magazine.

"The Stowaway" by Alvin Heiner

"He stole a ride to the Moon in search of glory, but found a far different destiny."

If Worlds of Science Fiction, June 1958

"Service with a Smile" by Charles Louis Fontenay

"Herbert was truly a gentleman robot. The ladies' slightest wish was his command...."

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Song of the Bats

by Robert E. Howard

The dusk was on the mountain
And the stars were dim and frail
When the bats came flying, flying
From the river and the vale
To wheel against the twilight
And sing their witchy tale.

"We were kings of old!" they chanted,
"Rulers of a world enchanted;
"Every nation of creation
"Owned our lordship over men.
"Diadems of power crowned us,
"Then rose Solomon to confound us,
"In the form of beasts he bound us,
"So our rule was broken then."

Whirling, wheeling into westward,
Fled they in their phantom flight;
Was it but a wing-beat music
Murmured through the star-gemmed night?
Or the singing of a ghost clan
Whispering of forgotten might?

You Must Fight To Live...

...On The Planet Of The Apes.

The Mummies: Official Budget Rock™ Showcase!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Super Megera

The Messer Chups are always ready for Halloween.

The Smiler

"The Smiler" by Albert Hernhunter

"Have you ever written science fiction? Have your stories been rejected? Herein may lie the reason."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Last Supper

Today Project Gutenberg adds a short, short story by Thelma Hamm Evans. She was the wife of fellow sf author and fan E. Everett Evans, and one of the few women writing sf during the Golden Age.

"The Last Supper" by T. D. Hamm

"Before reading this story, prepare yourself for a jolt and a chill in capsule form. O. Henry could have been proud of it. It could well become a minor classic."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Today Project Gutenberg adds two short novels by Mack Reynolds, including the Hugo Award nominated Status Quo.

Freedom (novelette) by Mack Reynolds

"Freedom is a very dangerous thing indeed. It is so catching—like a plague—even the doctors get it."

Status Quo (novella) by Mack Reynolds

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ultima Thule

Today another story by Randall Garrett and a novella by Mack Reynolds that was later included in his fixup novel Planetary Agent X (1965).

"Fifty Per Cent Prophet" by Randall Garrett

"That he was a phony Swami was beyond doubt. That he was a genuine prophet, though, seemed ... but then, what's the difference between a dictator and a true prophet? So was he...."

Ultima Thule by Mack Reynolds

Sunday, October 25, 2009

High Dragon Bump

Just added to Project Gutenberg today...

"The Helpful Hand of God" by Tom Godwin

"...Can be very helpful indeed. But of course, it's long been known that God helps those who wisely help themselves...."

"Black Eyes and the Daily Grind" by Stephen Marlowe

"The little house pet from Venus didn't like New York, so New York had to change."

"High Dragon Bump" by Don Thompson

"If it took reduction or torch hair, the Cirissins wanted a bump. Hokum, thistle, gluck."

The Pathless Trail (1922) by Arthur O. Friel

"McKay and his two companions (a boisterous redhead named Tim Ryan and a bland blond named Meredith Knowlton) are in the scary jungles of Brazil to try and locate a missing heir to a fortune. The lost millionaire has been reported to have gone native, running around nearly naked with a bow, frightening traders and acting pretty much insane.The three heroes have been commissioned to find the wild millionaire and return him back to the States. But right off the bat, there`s trouble in the form of a Prussian brute named Karl Schwandorf, who immediately begins to scheme against them for his own vile reasons." Dr Hermes Reviews

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Long Afternoon of Earth

Brian W. Aldiss stands as one of the most accomplished authors in the sf field. His ability to combine inventive sf imaginings with a deft literary style allow his works to be read and enjoyed on several levels. In his early novel Hothouse (1962), which was released in the U.S. in slightly abridged form under the title The Long Afternoon of Earth, all of his talent is on display.

The book is a seamless fixup of a series of novelettes originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Set in the distant future it paints a picture of an Earth in which human civilization has waned and the vegetable kingdom has asserted supremacy. The landmass of the world is now covered by a gigantic, sprawling banyan tree. In the tops of this tree prowl the traversers, titanic spider-like plant creatures. They feed on the hard radiation of outer space and have woven a web between the tidally locked Earth and its moon. Beneath them the planet seethes with aggressive vegetable creatures that have evolved to fill the niches once occupied by animals. Ravenous trappersnappers, devouring wiltmilts, swooping rayplanes, and "those mindless sharks" the thinpins. It is a world of menace at every corner, of Nature, red in tooth and claw.

In this world, in the middle layers of the banyan's branches, lives Lily-yo and her small tribe of diminutive humans. Now living a hunter-gatherer existence, the once dominant Homo sapiens have been reduced in stature both figuratively and literally. These humans are tiny creatures, only a fifth the size of their ancestors, their small size reflecting the diminished role of humans in this world. Faced with the constant threat of voracious plant beasts they live a precarious existence. They can only persevere and, like the vegetables around them, purse "their instinct for growth."

The novel is divided into three parts, each following the characters on their odysseys. The first involves Lily-yo and her small group, which includes the headstrong youth, Gren. They climb to the strange heights of the banyan, the Tips, to perform the ritual which will deliver Lily-yo and the other adults of the group to the afterlife. The remaining children of the group, including Gren, will go and start a new group as has been the custom from time immemorial. The second and third parts of the novel deal primarily with Gren whose obstinacy has resulted in his parting with the group. His resulting journeys lead him to unexpected perils and discoveries.

Delivered in a concise and economical style, Aldiss' novel is successful on all levels. As an entertaining story it never ceases to amaze with it's array of marvelous creatures and environments. The fecundity of imagination revealed here is matched only by deftness with which Aldiss crafts the narrative. The central image of the book, that of the cobweb draped Earth and moon, can be forgiven its lack of scientific plausibility for the shear power of its metaphorical vividness. Yet despite the brutality of the protagonists' world, and the ostensibly gloomy milieu of the Dying Earth subgenre in which this story is situated, the novel is never oppressive. The final pages leave you with a sense of hope, even in the face of cosmic adversity. It is a rewarding and accomplished book that exhibits Aldiss in the full flower of his growth as a writer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Modus Vivendi

Today Project Gutenberg adds one of John Berryman's series of stories involving psychokinesis that he wrote under the pseudonym Walter Bupp. They mistakenly attribute the story to Randall Garrett. John Clute addressed this misconception in the Encyclopedia of SF, writing that, "...Walter Bupp is not a pseudonym for Randall Garrett, as often listed."

Update: They caught the error and now correctly attribute the story to Berryman.

"Modus Vivendi" by John Berryman

"It's undoubtedly difficult to live with someone who is Different. He must, because he is Different, live by other ways. But what makes it so difficult is that, for some reason he thinks you are Different!"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hawk Carse

A bit of déjà vu today as Project Gutenberg adds another story by Randall Garrett and the first Hawk Carse yarn. Bleiler observes, "The Hawk Carse stories, which are dated vaguely as in the period A. D. 2117-2148, are for all practical purposes traditional pulp Western stories transplanted into space, with the addition of an Oriental villain in the mode of Sax Rohmer's Dr. Fu Manchu. While stories by other authors have approached this same aesthetic, the Hawk Carse series is a typological extreme."

Hawk Carse (A Complete Novelette) by Anthony Gilmore

"One of the spectacular exploits of Hawk Carse, greatest of space adventurers."

"Hanging by a Thread" by Randall Garrett

"It's seldom that the fate of a shipful of men literally hangs by a thread—but it's also seldom that a device, every part of which has been thoroughly tested, won't work...."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Today Project Gutenberg adds a story by Randall Garrett, perhaps best remembered for his Lord Darcy series, and the next-to-last Hawk Carse yarn.

Illustrated by van Dongen

"Psichopath" by Randall Garrett (Analog Science Fact & Fiction, October 1960)

"Given psi powers like clairvoyance and telepathy, solving problems of sabotage would be easy, of course. That is, it seems that way at first thought!"

The Passing of Ku Sui (A Complete Novelette) by Anthony Gilmore

"A screaming streak in the night—a cloud of billowing steam—and the climax of Hawk Carse's spectacular "Affair of the Brains" is over."

Illustrated by Paul Orban

"DP" by Arthur Dekker Savage (If Worlds of Science Fiction, September 1954)

"Once upon a time life was perfection. Government made sure its citizens were supplied with every comfort and pleasure. But sometimes perfection breeds boredom and ..."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Sound of Silence

"The Sound of Silence" by Barbara Constant

"Most people, when asked to define the ultimate in loneliness, say it's being alone in a crowd. And it takes only one slight difference to make one forever alone in the crowd...."

"Sight Gag" by Laurence M. Janifer

"Intelligence is a great help in the evolution-by-survival—but intelligence without muscle is even less useful than muscle without brains. But it's so easy to forget that muscle—plain physical force—is important, too!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Remember the Alamo!

Editor John W. Campbell, Jr. does his thing...

"Remember the Alamo!" by T. R. Fehrenbach

"This is, I think, one of the most powerful comments on the modern social philosophy I have seen —- a really blood-chilling little tale...."

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Man Who Played to Lose

"The Man Who Played to Lose" by Laurence M. Janifer

"Sometimes the very best thing you can do is to lose. The cholera germ, for instance, asks nothing better than that it be swallowed alive...."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Skull

Today an early story by the legendary PKD and some pseudo-science courtesy of editor John W. Campbell, Jr. which anticipates the later work of Fortean author W. Raymond Drake.

"The Skull" by Philip K. Dick

"Conger agreed to kill a stranger he had never seen. But he would make no mistakes because he had the stranger's skull under his arm."

"The Four-Faced Visitors of Ezekiel" by Arthur W. Orton

'Ezekiel, they say, "saw de wheel"—but he saw somewhat more than that. And Orton suggests that what he saw made perfectly good sense ... to the understanding!'

EDIT: I made Orton sound too original; his article just revisits ideas already popularized in Morris K. Jessup's book UFOs and the Bible (1956).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The first stories of two authors today. Charles L. Fontenay was a Tennessee newspaperman who wrote for If before quitting the genre in the early 1960's, only to attempt a return in the 1990's. Leigh Richmond wrote in collaboration with her husband Walt. According to John Clute, writing in the Encyclopedia of SF, they used their stories to express opposition to "orthodox scientific thinking" and founded something called the Centric Foundation to advance this opinion.

(Cover by Max Reach)

"Disqualified" by Charles L. Fontenay (If Worlds of Science Fiction, September 1954)

"If Saranta wished to qualify as one who loved his fellow man, he should have known that often the most secretive things are the most obvious."

(Cover by Schoenherr)

"Prologue to an Analogue" by Leigh Richmond (Analog Science Fact & Fiction, June 1961)

"Finnagle's Law shows that many times we don't get the effect we planned on. But ... there's an inverse to that famous law, too...."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Big Trip Up Yonder

Today Project Gutenberg adds another story by the acclaimed Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. an an updated version of A. Merritt's classic novel, The Metal Monster (1920), a sequel to his earlier book, The Moon Pool (1919), and a favorite of H. P. Lovecraft.

(Cover by Virgil Finlay)

The Metal Monster (Complete Novel) by A. Merritt (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, August 1941)

(Cover by Mel Hunter)

"The Big Trip Up Yonder" by Kurt Vonnegut (Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1954)

"If it was good enough for your grandfather, forget it ... it is much too good for anyone else!"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dead Ringer

Lester Del Rey is best remembered as the long-time editor of Ballantine Books and namesake of Del Rey Books, but he was also an accomplished writer in his own right.

(Cover by Emsh)

"Dead Ringer" by Lester Del Rey (Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1956)

"There was nothing, especially on Earth, which could set him free—the truth least of all!"

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I think I've watched enough of the TV version of FlashForward to have an informed opinion. There are some spoilers in this post, so be forewarned.

They've kept several elements of the novel. There's a world-wide flashforward (duh); they set up a website for people to post and compare their flashforwards; and one of the main characters sees only darkness in his vision, and concludes that he's dead in the future.

They did make some major changes, and not all for the best. One is that the flashforward is to events only six months into the instead of decades as in the novel. That makes sense, since it means the characters can discover if their visions are valid or not within the arc of a season or so. Plus we just learned that this was not the first flashforward, which means we might see the protagonists having new visions in upcoming episodes.

Something else they're doing differently is that the flashforward is no longer caused by an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider that releases energies not seen since the Big Bang. Instead it seems to be the work of nefarious individuals, some of whom were conscious during the event. It's a twist with plenty promise for the show's plot, although it's not nearly as plausible as the original premise.

The other big change is the characters. Lloyd Simcoe is still there, but as a secondary character. Theo Procopides is out, his role now taken by the character Demetri Noh, who is engaged to be married. Michiko is totally gone, replaced by Dr. Olivia Benford, wife (for now) of the lead. As for the lead himself, he's now FBI Special Agent Mark Benford, a recovering alcoholic who has a vision of a pinboard covered in clues about the flashforward event.

This brings us to the stupidest change they've made. The main characters are no longer scientists, they're FBI agents. This has to be the most hackneyed and unoriginal choice possible. It's a case of the show's creators blindly aping X-Files and Fringe instead of doing something original. And the idea that the FBI would be in charge of investigating the biggest and strangest scientific event in human history is ridiculous. It's as silly as putting the Mounties in charge.

Plus there are some changes that should have been made that weren't. When the novel was written back in the 90's it made sense to set up a single website for people to report their flashforwards, but now that we have blogs and twitter isn't the whole idea redundant?

Anyway, overall the show is doing justice to the novel. There's a bit too much pseudo-religious cant about "purpose" and "faith" (which relies on the Fallacy of Equivocation, as you can imagine) but that's to be expected from a show trying so hard to continue the Lost phenomena that they even included a billboard advertising Oceanic Airlines in the background of one scene.

Whether or not the show delivers on the promise to be the new Lost remains to be seem, but it is off to a good start.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Red Hell of Jupiter

(Cover by H. W. Wesso)

The Red Hell of Jupiter
A Complete Novelette By Paul Ernst (Astounding Stories, October 1931)

What is the mystery centered in Jupiter's famous "Red Spot"? Two fighting Earthmen, caught by the "Pipe-men" like their vanished comrades, soon find out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

McIlvaine's Star

(Cover by Henry Jones)

"McIlvaine's Star" by August Derleth (If Worlds of Science Fiction, July 1952)

Old Thaddeus McIlvaine discovered a dark star and took it for his own. Thus he inherited a dark destiny—or did he?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tetsujin 28-go

Eat your heart out, Gundam. A life-sized statue of Gigantor was officially unveiled today in Kobe, Japan.

Show Business

(Illustrated by Mel Hunter)

Show Business by Lyle G. Boyd and William C. Boyd (If Worlds of Science Fiction, November 1953)

Here's the behind-the-scenes lowdown on Luna City life and a promoter of Martian dancing girls, vaudeville, and—other things. But remember: stop us if you've heard this one!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The City & The City

I fully intended to read and review Ken St. Andre's books Dragon Child: Just A Thief From Khazan (ISBN: 9781438237855) & Griffin Feathers (ISBN: 9781438232263) this summer, but surprisingly they're not available via interlibrary loan. That's strange given that Ken is a librarian. You'd think that if anyone's books would be available at the library it would be a librarian's. So, with apologies to Ken, here instead is a review of China Miéville's novel, The City & The City.

The book is told in the first-person style of the classic roman noir. Our narrator is Tyador Borlú, a police inspector in the fictional Eastern European city of Besźel. When the body of a young woman is discovered in a skate park, Borlú finds himself involved in a case that is anything but ordinary.

But then Besźel itself is anything but ordinary. It is a twin city, existing alongside the culturally distinct city of Ul Qoma. These cities don't stand cheek-by-jowl like the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, but rather they overlap and interpenetrate each other. The are kept separate by custom and habit, by the practice of training the citizens of one to "unsee" the buildings and citizens of the other.

To violate this cultural taboo is a serious matter. It puts the individual in a state of "breach" and subjects them to the authority of the mysterious and powerful organization Breach. Few who fall into its hands are heard from again.

This central conceit of the novel is a multivalent device and pregnant with metaphor. Not only is it analogous to various historically divided geographies, such as Berlin, or Jerusalem, it also evokes more subtle cultural divides. It is evocative of the "unseeing" most citizens practice when confronted with the immeserated homeless populations on their own streets.

The novel's flaws are few and minor. By adopting the milieu of the roman noir to unfold his narrative, Miéville is subject to the strictures of that form, and one result is that the plot unfolds in rather routine fashion that seems at odds with the daring urban geography. And Miéville never captures the noir voice and cadence the way that, for example, Leigh Brackett did in her (conventional) hard-boiled masterpiece, No Good from a Corpse (1944).

But those slight shortcomings don't detract from the overall book. The City & The City is a subtle, imaginative and highly original novel that you won't want to unsee.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Astounding Stories (January 1931)

Another complete issue of editor Harry Bates' Astounding Stories, featuring another of S. P. Wrights' Star Trekish Commander John Hanson tales and a novelette by the renowned Murray Leinster.

“The Gate to Xoran.” by H. W. Wesso

Astounding Stories (January, 1931)

The Dark Side of Antri By Sewell Peaslee Wright

Commander John Hanson Relates an Interplanetary Adventure Illustrating the Splendid Service Spirit of the Men of the Special Patrol.

The Sunken Empire By H. Thompson Rich

Concerning the Strange Adventures of Professor Stevens with the Antillians on the Floor of the Mysterious Sargasso Sea.

The Gate to Xoran by Hal K. Wells

A Strange Man of Metal Comes to Earth on a Dreadful Mission.

The Eye of Allah By C. D. Willard

On the Fatal Seventh of September a Certain Secret Service Man Sat in the President’s Chair and—Looked Back into the Eye of Allah.

The Fifth-Dimension Catapult By Murray Leinster

The Story of Tommy Reames’ Extraordinary Rescue of Professor Denham and his Daughter—Marooned in the Fifth Dimension. (A Complete Novelette.)

The Pirate Planet By Charles W. Diffin

Two Fighting Yankees—War-Torn Earth’s Sole Representatives on Venus—Set Out to Spike the Greatest Gun of All Time. (Part Three of a Four-Part Novel.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Astounding Stories (March, 1931)

A lone Golden Age story today, plus another complete issue of Astounding Stories, featuring stories by the late doyen of sf, Jack Williamson, and the prolific Harl Vincent.

Lonesome Hearts by Russell Robert Winterbotham (If Worlds of Science Fiction, July 1954)

"Mjly is Yljm's love life. She is her sisters, her mothers, herselves and her ancestors. But poor old Yljm can never be a mother or a sister—just himself!"

Astounding Stories (March, 1931)

When the Mountain Came To Miramar By Charles W. Diffin

It is Magic against Magic As Garry Connell Bluffs for His Life with a Prehistoric Savage in the Heart of Sentinel Mountain.

Beyond the Vanishing Point By Ray Cummings

The Tale of a Golden Atom—an Astounding Adventure in Size. (A Complete Novelette.)

Terrors Unseen By Harl Vincent

One after Another the Invisible Robots Escape Shelton's Control—and Their Trail Leads Straight to the Gangster Chief Cadorna.

Phalanxes of Atlans By F. V. W. Mason

Never Did an Aviator Ride a More Amazing Sky-Steed Than Alden on His Desperate Dash to the Great Jarmuthian Ziggurat. (Conclusion of a Two-Part Novel.)

The Meteor Girl By Jack Williamson

Through the Complicated Space-Time of the Fourth Dimension Goes Charlie King in an Attempt to Rescue the Meteor Girl.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ig Nobel Stargate

Well, I tuned in the SeeFee channel last night and sat through the premiere of Stargate Universe, even though I'm not much of a fan of the franchise. (As far as I'm concerned it's like a tedious combination of pulp sf cliches and military recruiting commercial.) This was always going to be Stargate: Voyager so I wasn't too surprised to realize within the first few minutes that I was watching Lost in Space. The show starts with the stargate equivalent of a plane crash, with people and luggage flying everywhere; they're stranded in a mysterious location far from home; we get to know the main characters through a series of flashbacks; etc., etc. Weak, too say the least. I usually watch at least three episodes of a show before I form a judgement, but SGU is so unoriginal I don't plan to waste anymore time on it.

More enjoyable is the fact that the Ig Nobel Prizes were recently awarded which "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think." The corporate media only seem to be focused on the "gas mask bra", by which they mean the Public Health Prize awarded to "Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander." A far cry from a "gas mask" if you ask me. But my favorite was the physics prize awarded to a team of researchers "for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over." Science!

Friday, October 2, 2009


E. E. "Doc" Smith's classic space opera Triplanetary has been available from Project Gutenberg (and ManyBooks) for years, but they just updated it. And don't forget, this is the original magazine version from the pages of Amazing Stories (January, February, March and April 1934) and not the later Fantasy Press version which was retconned into the Lensman series. So if you've only read the revised version you might want to revisit this ripping tale of super-science, space pirates and alien invaders.

(Covers by Leo Morey)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Little Brother

Today something more than the usual the Golden Age SF from Project Gutenberg.

Cover by Yuko Shimizu

Little Brother (2008) by Cory Doctorow

"The novel is about several teenagers in San Francisco who, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge and BART system, defend themselves against what they see as the Department of Homeland Security's attacks on the Bill of Rights. The novel is also available free on the author's website, as a Creative Commons download."  Copyright © 2007 by Cory Doctorow.

(Cover by Schoenherr)

Gone Fishing by James H. Schmitz (Analog Science Fact & Fiction, May 1961)

"There is no predictable correlation between intelligence and ethics, nor is ruthlessness necessarily an evil thing. And there is nothing like enforced, uninterrupted contemplation to learn to distinguish one from another...."