Happy 91st Birthday, Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson was born 1926 on this date, February 20, in Allendale, New Jersey.  He was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th Century.  Best known to the general public as the author of The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time, and numerous Twilight Zone episodes, he also adapted a number of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories to the big screen for Roger Corman.

Matheson is a writer whose work I return to time and again, and a reread is long overdue.  I’ll try to work in some of his stories over the next few months.  I’ll honor his memory this evening by working on a short story.

Blogging Bran Mak Morn: “Men of the Shadows”

“Men of the Shadows”
First published in Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969
written circa 1925-1926

The first of Howard’s tales of the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, “Men of the Shadows” was rejected by Weird Tales in 1926.  Upon reading it, it’s easy to see why.

The story starts out strong.  Narrated by a Norseman in the Roman army, he and his companions are nearly cut down in a battle with the Picts.  Five of the Roman soldiers survive, but as they make their way back to Roman territory, they are one by one cut down until only the Norseman is left.

He’s taken captive by a group of Picts and taken before their chieftan, Bran Mak Morn.  (Bran is merely a chieftan in this story, not a king.)  None of the soldiers knew what their mission was except the commander, and he took that secret with him to his grave.  Bran introduces the soldier to his sister and tells him that a reward had been posted for whoever captured the girl and brought to a Roman merchant. Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: “The Jewel of Bas”

“The Jewel of Bas”
Planet Stories, Spring 1944

Note:  This post became a lot more personal than I intended.  Rather than rewrite it, I’ll expand on the opening paragraphs about the Ballantine Best of series in a future post.

Way back in ancient times, in other words the summer before I started high school, my parents agreed to let me join the Science Fiction Book Club, something I had been asking to do for a while.  I still remember the first shipment of books contained one of the Ballantine Best of series (Frederik Pohl).

In fact, for the first six months or so I was a member, each month the catalog I received contained a different volume of that series.  I bought them all.  Or rather all the ones the Club offered from the time I joined onwards.  (For some reason I never saw the C. L. Moore volume listed in any of the mail-outs.  I bought it in paperback, although there was an SFBC edition.)

I had become aware of Ballantine’s Best of series in the seventh grade, when I found a copy of The Best of Jack Williamson at the flea market in a little book shop that sold paperbacks with missing covers for a quarter.  I wouldn’t learn that such sales were illegal until a few years later. Continue reading

RIP, Edward Bryant (1945-2017)

Locus Online is reporting that Edward Bryant died in his sleep after a long illness.  A long-time resident of Colorado, Bryant was a short story writer, reviewer, and critic of science fiction and horror.  He regularly reviewed and provided conventions for Locus.

While Bryant was a frequent convention goer, I only recall being at one convention with him, the 2000 World Fantasy Convention in Corpus Christi.  I don’t think I interacted much with him, that being my first large convention.  So much major talent in one place was pretty overwhelming, and that convention is the high water bar I have for large conventions.  What I do remember is that Bryant was a warm and friendly man who was well-liked.  I don’t remember him being at the 2006 WFC or the San Antonio Worldcon a few years ago.

Bryant is an author whose work I’m familiar with more by reputation than actually reading.  Fortunately, much of it is available in electronic format.  I picked up a collection of his science fiction and one of his horror.  I’ll try to read some and, if time permits, post about it.

Charles Gramlich has posted this tribute.

It’s Frank Frazetta’s Birthday

Frank Frazetta, one of the greatest fantasy artists to ever stride this land, was born on this date (February 9) in 1928.  I’m not even going to try to put the impact his art has had on my life into words, much less that of the fantasy field.  Here are a couple of my favorite works of Frazetta’s.

The image on the left is the promotional poster for a Frazetta exhibit I saw in Austin last spring.  That trip has really been on my mind today, maybe because the weather has been so unseasonably warm.  The image was used on the cover of one of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane books.  You can read about my trip in this post.

Probably my favorite of the Frazetta Conan covers is the one shown on the right.  It’s  for Conan the Usurper.  I saw this one at the Frazetta exhibit, and let me tell you, none of the reproductions do the images justice.  It was awesome to stand in front of some of those paintings and see close up the detail and the brushwork.  The painting were larger than what you see on a book cover, of course, and the detail really stood out.

I think the thing that has always captured my imagination about this picture is the snake.  I hate snakes.  There’s just something evil about them.  I’m not sure why, but they’ve always given me the willies.

Frazetta is gone now, but his work lives on.  While it might be easy to think that with his popularity, there will always be copies available to enjoy, that’s a dangerous way to think.  Today hot property is too often tomorrow’s has-been, or worse completely forgotten.  So take a moment over the next few days to admire a Frazetta painting, especially if it’s one you’ve not seen before or not seen in a while.

Update:  Here are tributes by David J. West and Woelf Dietrich.  They’re both worth checking out.

Some Thoughts on a Pulp Speed Weekend

My son didn’t have school yesterday (Monday) because the teachers had an in-service day.  So my wife took advantage of his vacation to take a day off from work to go visit her parents.  My son plays trumpet, and solo and ensemble competitions are coming up.  As my father-in-law is a trumpet player, there was instruction and practice taking place.

I didn’t have Monday off.  The university was education (or something that resembles it to the untrained eye) as usual.  This was a good thing.  It meant I had the house to myself all weekend.

So I wrote. I tried to write at pulp speed.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, pulp speed is writing at a rate at which you can support yourself as a writer, like the pulp writers did.  They rarely rewrote, at least more than once, and they wrote prodigiously every day. Continue reading

Blogging Solomon Kane: “The Footfalls Within”

Miskatonic University Press
Weird Tales compendium

“The Footfalls Within” was first published in the September, 1930 issue of Weird Tales.  It’s a pretty straight-forward story, but one that has some depth if you know where to look.  It seems to take place after the previous tale, “Wings in the Night” (reviewed here).  Solomon Kane has continued his eastward trek.

The story opens with Kane coming across the body of a young black woman.  The corpse is fresh, and there are marks where whips and shackles have torn her flesh.  It doesn’t take long for Kane to catch up with the slavers who killed her.  He sees a train of blacks being led away by a group of armed Arabs and other blacks who have allied with them.  They’re taking their captives to a slave market.  They’re also driving them hard, neither giving them rest breaks nor providing them with ample water.

When another young woman collapses and can’t get up, the slavers decide to skin her rather than give her water or put her out of her misery.  It’s more than Kane can stomach, and he shoots the man with the skinning knife.  This brings the rest down on him, but he kills several before they can subdue him.  The leader of the group, Hassim, realizes he can get a great deal of money from Kane after he learns his captive’s identity, so Kane is treated better than the rest of the slaves.  As they march, Kane is approached by an old man named Yusef, who has retrieved Kane’s ju-ju stick from where Hassim had discarded it. Continue reading

Statistics Are Interesting Things

And no, this post isn’t going to be about math.  So come back here and quit running in terror.  The screaming is disturbing the neighbors.

Things have gotten rolling full speed at the day job, the offspring has gotten back into the swing of things, and I’m trying to juggle numerous (figurative) flaming chainsaws.

So while trying to kill time between interruptions at work this afternoon (there was too much going on to be able to shut the door and work on tasks that require extended concentration), I looked at the top posts for this blog.

It was rather interesting.  I didn’t compare or combine the numbers from when I was on Blogger, just looked at things since I set up my own domain.  I didn’t look at the other blogs, only Adventures Fantastic.  I ignored the most viewed page, which is the homepage, and looked at only individual posts, wherein a pattern quickly emerged. Continue reading

“Jirel Meets Magic” on C. L. Moore’s Birthday

Born on January 24, 1911, C. L. Moore is one of the favorite writers around these here parts.  As I stated a couple of days ago on Robert E. Howard’s birthday, I’m going to be focusing on a work by writers I’ve done multiple birthday posts on rather than trying to come up with something original in a tribute essay.  Today’s story is “Jirel Meets Magic”.

Originally published in the July 1935 issue of Weird Tales, “Jirel Meets Magic” is the third story of the Lady of Joiry.  It opens with Jirel leading a charge over the drawbridge of a castle, breaking the ranks of the defenders trying to stand against her, and calling for her soldiers to bring her a wizard named Giraud.

Why is Jirel attacking the castle?  Who is Giraud?  What is Jirel’s reason for wanting to kill him?  Who cares?  Moore’s writing pulls the reader in, sweeping him along at a breakneck pace.  These questions will be answered, but for now all that matters is the heady rush of battle.

Continue reading