Blogging Brackett: “The Veil of Astellar”

TWONSSPRING1944“The Veil of Astellar”
Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring 1944

There are going to be spoilers in this post.  I’ll put them below the Read More cutoff, but be advised they’re there.

Edmond Hamilton wrote in his introduction to The Best of Leigh Brackett that the narrator of this story, Steve Vance, was modeled on Humphrey Bogart.  This was pure speculation on Hamilton’s part because Brackett wasn’t saying.  I’ve been a big Bogart fan ever since we watched Casablanca in sophomore English in high school, and it’s still my favorite film.  It’s not hard to hear Bogart’s voice when you read this story.  Hamilton said he did every time he read it.

From this point on there are spoilers. Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”

ASF Feb 42“The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”
Astounding February 1942

“The Sorcerer of Rhiannon” predates The Sea-Kings of Mars AKA The Sword of Rhiannon by seven years.  Other than the word “Rhiannon” in the title, there doesn’t appear to be much connection between the two, at least on the surface.  But the seeds of the later work can be seen in “Sorcerer” if one takes the time to look.  Spoiler Alert for both stories.

In this story archeologist Max Brandon is searching for the mythical Lost Islands in one of the dry sea bottoms of Mars.  He’s trying to outrace a lawman intent on arresting him, a rival from Venus intent on beating him to the find, and a woman intent on marrying him.  Lost in a sandstorm, he stumbles upon the remains of an ancient ship.  There he finds a room that has been sealed for ages and takes shelter in it.

The room isn’t empty, nor does it and the contents look as old as they must be.  A man and a woman sit across a table from each other.  About the man’s head is a metal band.  The woman isn’t human, but Brandon recognizes her as a member of an extinct race called the Prira Cen.  She’s wearing a golden girdle over a white tunic and a ring.  The Prira Cen died out forty thousand years earlier when the Lost Islands were the dominant power on Mars.  Both the man and the woman appear to be alive but in some sort of stasis. Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: The Sword of Rhiannon

thrilling_wonder_stories_194906The Sword of Rhiannon was originally published under the title “The Sea-Kings of Mars” in the June 1949 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. I’m not sure if the story was expanded for book publication. I can certainly understand the change of title. The Mars in this story is an ancient Mars that still contains plenty of water, not the dry and dusty global desert of Brackett’s other works.

The story opens with Matt Carse, who is sort of an Indiana Jones type archaeologist but with less ethics, being lured to a cavern on present day Mars.  A two bit thief has found the millennia lost cavern in which the god Rhiannon was imprisoned.  (This Rhiannon has no connection to the witch from Welsh mythology.)  Rhiannon is something of a Prometheus figure, punished by the other gods because he gave advanced technology, specifically weapons, to some of the early Martian races. Continue reading

Poul Anderson at 90

Poul_AndersonPoul Anderson was born on this date, November 25, in 1926.  He passed away in 2001.  It’s hard to believe that he’s been gone that long.

Anderson was best known for his science fiction, but he was also an accomplished fantasy author.  I debated whether to post this tribute over at Futures Past and Present, but decided to go with the main blog.

It’s hard to go wrong with Anderson.  I grew up reading his future history and from there branched out to his other works.  In more recent years, I’ve read mostly his fantasy.

Unfortunately I’ve not read much of his work in recent years.  Too many other things demanding my attention.  The last thing I read by him was The Broken Sword.  It had been part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and I had been intending the review to be my next post in my look at that line for Black Gate.  Life got in the way, and I had to let some things drop.  The BAF series of posts was one of them.  Enough time has passed that I would need to reread the book before I reviewed it.  Too many details have faded.  Another project for a different day.

If you’ve not read Anderson, or not read much of his work, or not read him in a while (this would be me), do yourself a favor and check him out.  He was one of the giants of the field, and it’s a shame that he may be forgotten by the younger generation.  Much of his work is available in inexpensive ebook editions.  NESFA Press has a series of his collected short fiction available in hardcover (in case anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas).

Happy Thanksgiving

loony tunes thanksgivingI’d like to take a moment to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.  This year has been hectic, with a lot of life getting in the way of blogging, reading, and writing.  But I’m still here and not planning on going anywhere, even if my productivity is not as high as it has been in the past.  I’m thankful to each and every one of you who reads these posts and follows me on Twitter.  May your day be filled with family, friends, food, and thankfulness regardless of whether you celebrate this holiday or not.

Daughter of Naked Slave Girls, Illustrated Edition

tribesmen-of-gor-230A few years ago I wrote a post entitled “Why Modern Fantasy Needs More Naked Slave Girls“, in which I said that too many people were taking modern fantasy too seriously and killing all the fun by trying to impose their views on everyone else.  This was before I moved everything over from Blogger.  At the time I transferred everything over, it was the second most viewed post I had written.  (A review about a book on the Bayeux Tapestry was the most viewed.  No, I don’t know why.)

Well, apparently we need to revisit that topic (naked slave girls, not the Bayeux Tapestry) because some people haven’t gotten the message.  The latest dustup involves the Conan board game that set records on Kickstarter, like over $3 million.  There have been a couple of posts recently that have taken the makers of the game to task because of the art used.  The picture in question, which will be shown below the “Read More” tag, shows a damsel in distress.  And we can’t have that now, can we?

I’m going to include some pictures here that some hothouse flowers might find offensive.  I did put “Illustrated Edition” in the title, you know.  If you’re one of those, be advised that I don’t provide fainting couches or smelling salts, and this is my space, so it won’t be a safe space.  If you can’t handle that, go somewhere else. Continue reading

A Look at Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best Collection

strahan years best 10The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 10
Jonathan Strahan, ed.
Solaris
trade paper $19.99
ebook $7.99

So back at the beginning of the summer, I decided to try to read through all of the year’s best anthologies, or at least as many as I could. That project hasn’t gone very well for the same reason I’ve not gotten much blogging done in general. Life has been happening, in other words, and I’ve had to devote my time to other things.

But I’m going to try to get as many of these volumes finished as I can before the end of the year. Jonathan Strahan’s series is probably the second longest running after Gardner Dozois’s, a series which had its 33rd installment released earlier this year. I’ve gotten a couple of review copies of previous volumes of Strahan’s series in the past, but this is the first one I’ve finished. Solaris only made the review copies available in PDF format, which my ereader didn’t deal with very well. I would need to resize the font, and doing so messed up the formatting. This year I spent my own money and sprung for the print edition.

Unlike Neil Clarke’s volume (reviewed here), which was exclusively science fiction, Strahan mixes the sf with fantasy.  Here are my thoughts. Continue reading

A Review of Six Scary Stories

king15large_360x540Six Scary Stories
Selected by Stephen King
Cemetery Dance
hardcover $24.95 (with custom slipcase $49.90)
paperback $14.95
ebook $4.99

I’d already bought but hadn’t had a chance to read the electronic version of this book when a review copy showed up in the mail.  Cool.  Now I can read the book in either format.  Then I did a very foolish thing.  I, um, well…I put the book on my desk.  Where it disappeared.

I found it when I was moving things from the desk to the new bookshelf.  I dove right in and finished it in two or three nights.  Which isn’t bad with all the time constraints I’ve got at the moment, but is pretty slow compared to my regular reading rate.  (To give you an idea of how tight things are at the moment, I finished the book over a week ago and am just now getting a few minutes to sit down and write.)

In case you just fell off a turnip truck awoke from a coma and don’t know the genesis of this little anthology, Stephen King was asked by his British publisher to select a story in a contest the publisher was running to promote The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.   The publisher would select the final shortlist of six (from what turned out to be over 800 entries).  King would make the final selection from those.  King writes in his introduction that he had hoped to find one good story among the finalists.  What he found were six stories of publishable quality.  Hence, the anthology we’re discussing.  Here’s a quick summary of the contents: Continue reading

A Sampling of Texas Horrors

road killRoad Kill
E. R. Bills & Bret McCormick, eds.
Eakin Press
Paperback $16.95
ebook $5.99

I’d like to thank Bret McCormick for sending me a review copy of Road Kill.  Most anthologies have two or three (or more) stories that aren’t my flagon of ale.  There was only one story in this one that fits that description.  All of the others I liked, some a lot.  And not just because of the Texas theme.

The variety in Road Kill is impressive.  The type of horror ranges from quiet to grisly to Lovecraftian to science fictional.  Here were a few of my favorites. Continue reading