Author Archives: Keith West

Cross Genre-ing

I got into a conversation on Twitter this morning with PC Bushi that grew to include several other individuals. Mr. Bushi initiated things by saying Leigh Brackett’s short story “The Woamn From Altair” demonstrated her range as a writer because it was a well-written story that wasn’t an adventure story.  I agreed. (If you’re interested, my review from a couple of years ago is here.)

Early in the course of the conversation, he linked to a post he had written about Jack Vance and Andre Norton, discussing their versatility as writers.  He says some good stuff, and you should check it out.

The conversation moved onto to all the genres Brackett wrote in.  In addition to space opera and science fiction, she also wrote detective stories (which is what got her the job writing for Howard Hawks on The Big Sleep) and westerns. This discussion got me to thinking… Continue reading

Clark Ashton Smith at 125

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13 in 1893. He was one of the greatest fantasists of the Weird Tales era on indeed any era. Writing contemporaneously with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, Smith was considered one of the big three of what many consider to be the golden age of Weird Tales.

Unfortunately, he has not fared as well as those two in the years since he died.  (Smith died in 1961, but he had stopped writing fiction years before.)  He is still revered among fans of weird fiction, but he is not as well known among the general public. This is highly unfortunate.

There are probably several reasons contributing to this relative obscurity compared to his two contemporaries named above.  For one thing, he never had any series characters, such as Howard did, with Conan being the most well known. Much of Lovecraft’s work was set in what has become known as the Cthulhu Mythos, uniting a variety of stories against a common background with common elements.  Smith wrote multiple tales set in a number of story cycles, but for the most part these works shared a setting with no recurring characters and no mythos to link them.

Smith’s style is probably the biggest obstacle a modern reader needs to overcome. He started out as a poet, and with its lush prose, his work reflects that. Smith knew his way around a dictionary and wasn’t afraid to use it. While this might be off-putting and not in line with contemporary trends, I personally find it a good thing. While reading Smith might involve some mental work, and not something to be attempted at bedtime if you’re tired, I have always found reading Smith to be rewarding. Continue reading

Quick Writing Question

Serious question.  I’ve been tracking my daily word count for the last week. I’ve keeping a cumulative track in a spreadsheet as well as a daily count on a calendar.  It’s new words, so I just add that day’s count to the total every day.

I’m almost  done with the current WIP. I think the next thing will be a revision and expansion of something I didn’t get right the first time but think I know how to fix.

My question is how do I do word count when I’ll be editing and deleting as well as writing. Some scenes will be modified, cut, expanded, that sort of thing. Is there an easy way to keep track of what you’ve done that day?

Birthday Musings: Why We Need More Men Like J. R. R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on this date (January 3) in 1892 in what is now South Africa. He needs to introduction here.

For this birthday observance, I’m going to use the quote on the left as my jumping off point. I’ve subtitled this post “Why We Need More Men Like J. R. R. Tolkien”.  That’s not just clickbait.

Tolkien wrote one of the most influential works of literature, one that resonates with people and is still popular nearly half a century after his death.  I want to briefly examine why that is. Continue reading

A Birthday for Beaumont

Charles Beaumont

Charles Beaumont was born on this date (January 2) in 1920.  If you watched The Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy Channel over the weekend, you probably saw one or two episodes that he wrote. His birthday is often overlooked since he shares it with a more famous author, Isaac Asimov.

Beaumont died way too young in 1967, but he left a mark of the field of the fantastic that still lingers today if you know where to look and what to look for.  And not just because he wrote some of the best remembered episodes of The Twilight Zone, either. Continue reading

When the Gods Fall

Fallen Gods
James A. Moore
Angry Robot
mass market paperback $7.99
ebook $6.99

I would like to thank Angry Robot Books for the review copy of this novel.

I was quite irritated at the end of this book.  Note I said the end of the book, not the ending.  The ending was great.  I was irritated because I was at the end and there was no more book to read.  I wanted to keep reading.  I was irritated that I couldn’t and will have to wait for probably a year before the next book in the series comes out. Continue reading

Christmas Spirits from Paul Finch

In a Deep, Dark December
Paul Finch
ebook, $1.49

I’ve always enjoyed Paul Finch’s work, but somehow I missed this collection when it came out a few years ago.  And while the afternoon of Christmas Eve may be a tad late for some of you to enjoy these stories, you should keep it in mind for next year.

In a Deep, Dark December contains four short stories and one novella.  I took a detailed look at the novella, “The Killing Ground”, a few years ago.  You can read the review here. I’m not going to rehash what I said.  I did reread the story, and it held up quite well.  Instead I’ll discuss the other stories.
Continue reading