Author Archives: Keith West

Poe’s Shadow

In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914
Leslie S. Klinger, ed.
Pegasus Books
Hardcover $24.95, Paperback $15.95, Digital $15.95

Here’s a little something for the horror aficionado, although I suspect most horror fans will have read many of the stories in this volume.

While Poe himself has no story in the volume (and why not, I want to know), his influence is seen in most of the selections, if for no other reason than Poe’s reputation has eclipsed most other writers of the supernatural from the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries in the minds of the general public.  The horror fan will recognize most of the names, if not all.  The tales Mr. Klinger has chosen are not always the best known works by the better known authors such as M. R. James, E. T. A. Hoffman, or Arthur Conan Doyle.  I do wonder why W. W. Jacobs was not included in this volume; probably because his career extended to far past the period the anthology covers. Continue reading

Not Enough Millstones

With only a few exceptions, my posts are family-friendly.  If they were movies, most would be rated PG-13 or lower.  Not this one.  Consider it a hard R.  The content to follow deals with sexual predation of children and is not suitable for younger readers.  Some adults might want to take a pass on this one as well.  You have been warned.

“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”
Jesus Christ, Luke 17:2 (NKJV)

The Last Closet
Moira Greyland
Castalia House
ebook, $ 5.99

Moira Greyland, in case you didn’t know, is the only daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) and Walter Breen. MZB was a lauded feminist science fiction and fantasy author, best known for The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series.  Breen was regarded as one of the foremost numismatists in the country.

Breen was convicted of child molestation and died in prison in the early 90s.  Breen had been a known pedophile for decades.  He was banned from a Worldcon (Pacificon II) in the early 1960s because of his behavior around children.  This was quite controversial at the time.  A large number of fans didn’t think he should have been banned.  A number publicly stated that they didn’t think the children had suffered any harm from Breen.

My, how times have changed.  Now we have codes of conduct, microaggressions, safe spaces, and expulsions based on one person’s say-so.

None of this information about Breen is a big secret.  What has come to light more recently is that MZB was also a child molester, and according to Greyland, she was worse. Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: Alpha Centauri or Die!

Alpha Centauri or Die!
Leigh Brackett
Ace Books, 1963

I thought I had read this one, but I think I was confusing it with The Starmen of LLyrdis.  I would have remembered the story if I had read it previously.  The ISFDB lists this book as being a fix-up of “The Teleportress of Alph-C” and “Ark of Mars”.  I’ve not read those stories, so I’ll refrain from putting my foot in my mouth by commenting.

By setting most of her work in the wilds of the solar system, particularly Mars and Venus, Brackett focused on adventure more than politics.  When political considerations arose, they tended to be in tribal or feudal systems of government.  That’s not the case here.  A centralized government controls all aspects of the solar system.  Human space travel has been outlawed.  Individuals are assigned a job and a sector in which to live.  It’s almost impossible to move from one sector to another, never mind from one planet to another.  All transport between planets is done by computer controlled spacecraft.  The entire economy is centrally controlled, and individual initiative is quashed.

This is not a system of which Brackett approves. Continue reading

A Leigh Brackett Renaissance?

Leigh Brackett, circa 1930

Today is Leigh Brackett’s birthday.  She was born December 7, 1915 in California.  I posted yesterday that I would try to get a review of her novel Alpha Centauri or Die.  Obviously that didn’t happen, although I did get all my exams written.  That review will go up next week after the smoke from the semester clears and all the tears have dried.

What’s that, you say?  You don’t know who Leigh Brackett is?  Well, Pilgrim, you’ve come to the right place.  (You are a pilgrim, right, searching for pulp enlightenment?) Continue reading

Tis the Season…

…for final exams.  They start at 7:30 AM on Friday morning.  The students are moaning and groaning (as are the enrollees), and the administrators who decided that was a good time to start will probably just be sitting down to their first cup of coffee then.  Me, I’ll have been up for over two hours at that point in the morning.

So why should any of you care?  Leigh Brackett’s birthday is tomorrow.  I’ve got a review I hope to get written of Alpha Centauri or Die.  I think I can get it written tonight, but I’ve said that for the last three nights.  I’ve still got exams that need to be written.


I’ll post something about her birthday tomorrow.  If it’s not the review, that will follow as soon as I get all the end of semester stuff cleared away.  Other than tomorrow, things will probably be pretty quiet around here for the next five to seven days.  I’m planning to post more once classes are over.  We’ll see.

Three by de Camp

So earlier this evening I was reading the comments in a thread about whether or not someone new to the fantasy and science fiction fields should read Asimov, Heinlein, and Tolkien.  More than a few of the comments said that not only should a new reader not read bigoted dead white guys, those authors should go out of print.

Personally, I found many of the comments to be bigoted, at least as much if not more than the authors the comments were directed toward.  Rather than get into a fight with idiots people I don’t know on the internet, I decided I was in the mood to read some dead white guys. And since there has been a bit of discussion about the works of L. Sprague de Camp in the comments here since yesterday’s post, I  was wanting to revisit his work.  I thought I would read some of his short stories.

Here are my thoughts on what I read: Continue reading

L. Sprague de Camp at 110

Lyman Sprague de Camp was born on November 27, 1907.  He passed away in 2000.  I hadn’t intended to do another birthday post so soon after the ones earlier this week, but when I saw today was de Camp’s birthday, I couldn’t pass it up.  L. Sprague de Camp had one of the longest careers in the field (over 60 years) and worked as both author and editor.  He was a major player in the history of Robert E. Howard.

We’ll talk about de Camp and Howard in a bit.  First, I want to look at de Camp as a writer independent of Howard.  Among Howard fans, that work tends to be overlooked. Continue reading

A Quartet of Birthdays

Today, November 24, marks the birth of four individuals who had an impact on the field.  They are, in the order of their births, T. O’Connor Sloane, E. R. Eddison, Evangeline Walton, and Forrest J. Ackerman.

Of the four listed in the above paragraph, Sloane (1851-1940) is almost certainly the most unfamiliar to modern readers.  The reason for that is because he was an editor, not a writer.  Sloane’s involvement in the science fiction field began as an assistant editor at Amazing Stories under Hugo Gernsback.

Sloane had a Ph. D. in electrical engineering and for a time was the editor of Scientific American.  His son married Thomas Edison’s daughter.  Sloane became the editor of Amazing Stories in 1929.  He held the position until 1938, when Ziff-Davis moved the magazine to Chicago from New York and replaced Sloane with Ray Palmer.  This would prove to not be a good move, although sales went up when Palmer began publishing Richard Shaver’s tripe.

Sloane published the first stories of Jack Williamson, John W. Campbell, Jr., Clifford Simak, and E. E. “Doc” Smith.  Not too shabby a track record.

Next up is Eric Rucker Eddison (1882-1945).  Eddison is still remembered today, although he is not widely known outside of fans of classic fantasy.  Eddison is best known for his novel The Worm Ouroboros.  I read this one decades years ago when I was  in college.  It’s definitely due a reread.  Eddison also wrote what has come to be called The Zimiamvian Trilogy, although it was not intended to be a trilogy.  It was a work left uncompleted at Eddison’s death.  The volumes include Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and The Mezentian Gate (unfinished).  Eddison’s work was respected by both J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis.

Evangeline Walton (1907-1996) is best known today as the author of the Mabinogian Tetralogy.  The first book, The Island of the Mighty, was published in 1936 under the title The Virgin and the Swine.  It sold poorly, and the other titles weren’t published until the 1970s.  Lin Carter brought out the first volume for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and the other volumes soon followed.  They are The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, and Prince of Annwn.

Walton’s other works include Witch House and The Sword is Forged.  The latter is the first volume of a trilogy featuring Theseus.  The other two volumes are complete but remain unpublished.  There are several unpublished novels in her papers, and it would be nice if the executors of her estate would bring them out.

Forrest J. Ackerman (1916-2008) rounds out the four birthdays we’re recognizing today.  Ackerman has been many things in the field: fan, literary agent, anthologist, and publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  He even collaborated on a Northwest Smith story with C. L. Moore.  (“Nymph of Darkness”; I intend to review it at some point as part of my posts on Northwest Smith.)

It’s primarily as an anthologist that I’m familiar with Ackerman’s work.  While I’ve picked up a copy of FMF, I’ve never been a regular reader.  Ackerman had an encyclopedic knowledge of the field, especially the early days before WWII.  When I read one of his anthologies, I knew I would find some lost treasure he had rediscovered.  And while the writing in those stories might not have met the highest literary standards, they would be entertaining.

You can find works by these authors online in electronic editions, so if you need a break from Black Friday, there is plenty of relaxing reading to choose from.