Monthly Archives: April 2016

Frank Belknap Long at 115

Frank Belknanp LongToday is Frank Belknap Long’s birthday. He was born on Arpil 27, 1901, for those of you who are reading this on a day other than when I posted it. Since it’s late, that’s probably most of you.

Long was a prolific writer of weird fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and Gothic romance. (Charles Rutledge discussed them on his blog a few years ago.  Here’s an example.)  He is probably best remembered today as one of the Lovecraft circle.

I’ve only read a small amount of his work. I’ve found him to be one of those writers who either hits with me and hits it out of the park or completely strikes out. (My wife was just watching a baseball game, so naturally you’re getting a sports analogy.

He was one of five authors (along with Lovecraft, Howard, Moore, and Merritt) of the round-robin story “The Challenge From Beyond”, which I discuss here.   My favorite story of his that I’ve read is “The Houonds of Tindalos”.  This is arguably Long’s most important work, at least in terms of influence.  I’ve paid tribute to it in one of my unpublished sword and sorcery tales I hope to see in print one of these days.

I’ve got some writing to do tonight, so I’m going to have to wait until the weekend to read any of his work.  I’ll do that when I’ve got a bit of time, along with reading some more Davidson.

The Next Three Weeks or So

There are two and a half weeks of class left in the semester followed by a week of finals.  (Yes, finals week starts in the middle of one week and ends in another rather than starting on Monday like most places I’m familiar with.  Don’t ask me why.)  Later in the week I’ll be giving my last regular exams.  I’m in the middle of trying to finish a story by the end of the week as well.

So my point is things are probably going to be quiet around here.  I’ve got a couple of reviews for this blog, plus a science fiction novel I’m hoping to finish later this evening or tomorrow.  After that, you may not hear much from me before the middle of May.

Just lettin’ ya know.

Happy Birthday, Avram Davidson

avram_davidsonIn addition to being Talbot Munday’s birthday (see previous post), today, April 23, is also Avrm Davidson’s birthday.  Born in 1923, Avram Davidson was one of the most original and uinque writers of fantasy in the mid-20th Century.

Davidson won multiple awards in variety of genres, including the Hguo (“All the Seas with Oysters”), an Edgar Award, and three World Fantasy Awards as well as a World Fantasy Lifetime achievement Award.  He was the editor of F&SF from 1962-1964.

He wrote novels, but I’ve always thought of him as primarily a short story writer.  His work is characterized by wit and erudition.  It’s not fluff and requires concentration.  One of his books I need to revisit is Adventures in Unhistory, a collection of essays in which Davidson speculated on the origins of myths and legneds.  I’ve never read anything else quite like it.

Unfortunately in this age five, six, or more volume “trilogies”, the type of fiction he wrote is out of style and his work is largely forgotten.  This is a shame, because he was one of the most original writers the field has ever produced.  I once heard a panel on “What Writers Will We Be Reading 100 Years From Now?” in which Neil Gaiman listed Davidson.  And when I visited with Peter S. Beagle last year, he told me how he used to visit with Davidson and listen to him.  Beagle encouraged him to talk about whatever was on his mind because it would be fascinating and educational.  I must admit I was a bit jealous when he told me that.

It’s late, but tomorrow I’m going to read some of his work.  If you would like to give him a try, much of his work is available in electronic form in reasonably priced editions.

Happy Birthday, Talbot Mundy

Talbot MundyAdventure writer Talbot Mundy was born William Lancaster Gribbon on this day (April 23) in 1879.  Mundy wrote a number short stories and novels for pulps such as Adventure, Argosy, and Cavalier.  Some of his work, such as Tros of Samothrace and its sequels had fantasy elements.

I’ve only read one of his short stories, “A Transaction in Diamonds”.  I’ve got several collections of his short stories from Black Dog Books which I intend to read.

In addition to being an adventure writer, Mundy is of interest because of his influence on other authors, notably Robert E. Howard, E.. Hoffman Price, Robert A. Heinlein, Fritz Leiber, H. Warner Munn, and I want to say L. Sprague de Camp but campt find a reference for that.

A Look at The Fairy Chessmen

ASF_0182The Fairy Chessmen
Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore writing as Lewis Padgett
originally published in two parts in Astounding Science Fiction, Jan. 1946 and Feb. 1946

I’ve had a copy of this short novel for years but have never gotten around to reading it until recently. For some reason, I struggled a bit to get into to it. That’s not normally a problem I have with Kuttner, even when he isn’t at the top of his game. It may have had something to do with reading it on my phone. I tend to be interrrupted more when I’m reading in that format.

But I digress.  Here’s what I thought of the story. Continue reading

Dragoncon Announces the Dragon Awards

I don’t normally do two posts so close together, but I wanted to make those of you who haven’t heard aware of a new award.  Dragoncon is one of the largest sff conventions in the world.  They’ve just announced a new set of awards, called the Dragon Awards.  Unlike the Gemmell, which focuses on written fantasy (and is IMNSHO the best in the field), the Dragon Awards will award science fiction, games, comics & graphic novels, horror, alternate history, YA, and other categories.  It’s open to anyone.  You don’t have to shell out $50 just to vote.

For further information, go here.

Henry Kuttner at 101

Kuttner pensiveToday, April 7, 2016, marks the 101st birthday of author Henry Kuttner.

I was going to read and review one of Kuttner’s longer works and had chosen The Fairy Chessmen.  That review will come in a few days.  I’m not quite halfway through it and won’t be able to finish it before tomorrow.

Since Robert Bloch’s birthday was a few days ago, I though I would share a few photos of Kuttner and Bloch.  Bloch and Kuttner were friends and collaborated on a few short stories.  Those stories were “The Black Kiss“, “The Grip of Death“, and “The Grab Bag“. Continue reading

Robert Bloch Hits 99

Robert BlochRobert Bloch was born on April 5, 1917, in Chicago.  He passed away on September 23, 1994 in Los Angeles.

Although he will be remembered as the author of Psycho, and justifiably so, he was a writer of great range and depth.  While I’ve found his novels to be somewhat hit and miss, I’ve almost always enjoyed his short fiction.

Bloch was a member of the Lovecraft Circle and published in Weird Tales, but he quickly moved on to other types of fiction than Mythos pastiche.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with Bloch’s Mythos tales, but they were his early work.)  He appeared as Robert Blake in Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark.”

Bloch was adept at mystery, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy.  Bloch managed to infuse humor into some of the grimmest situations.  His story “That Hell-Bound Train” won the Hugo Award in 1959.  A favorite theme was Jack the Ripper, beginning with the classic “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”.

Bloch worked in Hollywood, and many of his stories reflect his experiences there.  He wrote two sequels to Psycho which had nothing to do with the movie sequels.  I’ve only read the first sequel, but it’s set almost entirely in Hollywood.  I wondered how many of the scenes in it were based on actual events.

Anyway, Bloch isn’t as well remembered these days as he should be.  Subterranean Press (among others) have published collections of his work in the years since his death, but those are starting to go out of print.

I’m going to read one or two of his stories this evening and toast his memory and literary legacy.

With the lights on and the doors locked, of course.


The Silent Army Takes on the Gods of War

TheSilentArmy-144dpiThe Silent Army
James A. Moore
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 7th April 2016
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
North American Print
Date: 3rd May 2016
Format: Small (Mass-Market) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 / CAN$9.99
Date: 5th April 2016
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

The fourth volume in James A. Moore’s Seven Forges series hits shelves in the US today May 3.  [After I posted the review Angry Robot informed me the release date in the US has been moved back, so you’ve got time to get caught up on the series in need be and can preorder the book.  Meanwhile, I’m going to taunt you because I’ve been able to read this book and you have to wait.]  If you’ve been reading this blog long, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of this series.  (See reviews of the previous volumes here, here, and here.)  I’d like to thank Angry Robot Books for providing me the review copy.

The Silent Army has a lot to live up to from the previous volumes in this series.  I’m glad to say that it does.  The Fellein Empire has been losing every battle in the war with the Sa’ba Taalor.  Things are about to change.  The question is will it be enough or will they go down in defeat.

Moore pulls a few tricks out of his sleeve.  One thing about this series is that it keeps you on your toes.

I don’t want to give too much away, especially if you haven’t read the series.  (And if not, why not?  C’mon, what’s the matter with you?)  I will say this.  The silent army is awesome.  They’re stone warriors who protect the City of Wonders.  The first time one of them comes out of a wall to engage in combat, it’s one of the best, most exciting scenes in the book.

Which brings me to something I would like to point out.  At the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up, James A. Moore keeps getting better.  The cast of characters expands.  Moore juggles them with ease, giving each one some background so that they don’t all run together.

And the battle scenes, whether it’s individual combat or armies clashing, are riveting.  Plus the intrigue keeps on getting more complex.

The silent army has their work cut out for them.  They’re fighting a war against gods who are gods of war.  The Sa’ba Taalor are only the soldiers, they’re not the ones calling the shots.  What chance do stone and human armies stand against gods who can reshape the landscape and the armies that serve them?

The ending has some surprises in it.  My take on it is that The Silent Army is the end of an arc but not the end of the story.  The last few pages fairly say as much.

I don’t know if we’re going to see another volume in the Seven Forges series anytime soon or not.  I hope it won’t be long.  But if it is, or if The Silent Army wraps things up for good, it’s been a great ride with a good conclusion.

This is one is highly recommended.