Friday, January 29, 2016

White Boy Party Funk Rock - Green Jelly

Then things went all funk metal - by this time I gave up and just listened to lounge and Shibuya-kei.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Prisoner of Blackwood Castle by Ron Goulart

The Prisoner of Blackwood Castle
by Ron Goulart
1984 Avon Books
Reprinted Wildside 2015 in Harry Challenge: Victorian Supernatural Sleuth

Early steampunk which has Ron Goulart in his element.  Set in 1897 Europe, Harry Challenge is a Pinkerton style detective who is hired to rescue a man believed held prisoner in a foreign castle.  Along the way he faces lifelike automatons, a werewolf, and a vampire.  Well, I say face.

What works here is Goulart's trademark humor.  Very few books are laugh-out-loud funny, and he doesn't try for it here, but the humor works to give the book charm, which it has in spades.  There are good guys galore: Challenge, his estranged love Princess Alicia, stage magician and genuine psychic the Great Lorenzo, spunky reporter Jennie, her rival reporter the braggart McMillion, and his foul-mouthed valet Tubbs.

What it's short on are bad guys and action.  There are few quick sword fights that last a couple sentences each, but very little actually happens until the end of the book, and almost nothing even then.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Origins of Horse Hockey - Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the Coming Race

Edward Bulwer-Lytton is sadly best known today for the stupid unfunny award that has his name.  The award is for the funniest, most overblown opening line for a novel, based on the shaky premise that "It was a dark and stormy night" (Lytton's line) is the worst possible opening for a book.  It's not, but it did become a literary cliche along the lines of "the butler did it", thanks mainly to Snoopy.

As someone who actually reads fiction, I've seen plenty of opening stinkers much worse than the award winners.  I always assumed these were actual books, but nope, it's just jokey one-liners written badly on purpose.  This would be like if the Razzies were just clips of people hanging boom mikes into the shot on purpose.

Bulwer-Lytton is far from the worst author ever, and his prose is far more accessible to modern audiences than that of his contemporaries.

I'v spoken about The Haunter and the Haunters; or, The House and the Brain and how it was an early occult detective story and inspiration for the Shadow.

Even more inspirational is 1871's The Coming Race.  In this novel, the protagonist finds himself in an underground world populated by an ancient society of beings called the Vril-ya.  These beings channel an energy force called vril through special staffs.  Vril can both heal and destroy.

The novel was very popular in it's time, largely because of the notion of vril.  Bovril gets it's name from the fictional force.

Here are the three major areas on which The Coming Race had a massive influence:

Civilizations within the hollow earth:

Several prior satires had utopian societies living underground.

The Coming Race seemed to very clearly influence HP Lovecraft's "The Mound", which in turn influenced Richard Shaver, which in turn influenced Jack Kirby's Eternals and countless other areas of science fiction.

The Coming Race also had some influence on Helena Blavatsky, who wrote about contacting ascending masters that lived underground.  Blavatsky has influenced everything from the New Age movement to Ufology.


I don't think the Vril-ya were aliens, but various ancient alien variations started being slipped into the template beginning with Lovecraft.  Shaver influenced Jason Bishop, who is responsible for a lot of the Dulce Base material.  Pretty much anything today having to do with secret underground bases can be traced back to this.

Nazi Occultism

The Coming Race probably did little for the Nazis, but it shows up in modern myths about Nazi Occultism.  Thanks to various sloppy writers making stuff up (starting with 1960s Morning of the Magicians), The Vril Society supposedly was the secret occult hand behind Hitler.  It wasn't, but it appears in places like the Wolfenstein games and Legend of Overfiend.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Harry Dickson and the Heir of Dracula

Harry Dickson and the Heir of Dracula
by Harry Dickson
Originally 1933,1937
Black Coat Press 2009

These Harry Dickson stories are from a series of German Sherlock Holmes bootlegs translated to Dutch, then translated to French, and now to English, with adaptations and changes along the way.

The stories set up a fanciful premise and then almost immediately reveals the even more absurd Scooby Doo ending, with little to no detection (or much of anything else) happening in between.

I'm going to go ahead a spoil this one in case you want to stop reading, but it's not like you would be able to solve the mysteries yourself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bane by Joe Donnelly

by Joe Donnelly
2014 Impera Media, originally 1989 Arrow?

It's in first person and the protagonist is a writer, so there's two pet peeves right there.  I've been concerned lately about 80s novels being updated for recent Kindle releases, so I've been on the look out for subtle clues.  Nice of Donnelly to go ahead and bash me over the head with it in the opening.

"I'm listening to Queen, too bad Freddie Mercury died years ago and not two years in the future."

He then proceeds to throw in Twitter and the Robert Murdoch phone-hacking scandal, which was already dated by the 2014 republication date.  Luckily he quickly gets this out of his system and we're back to a world without cellphones where people still write letters.

A writer goes back to his hometown Arden, a small Scottish town that has been plagued by clusters of disasters throughout history.  He meets with two childhood friends that were involved in a tragedy they can't quite remember and It this is Stephen King's It.

Instead of an interdimensional clown demon or whatever, the source of the evil is a force of madness summoned from another dimension centuries ago to dispatch an invading Roman Army.  So less stupid that It.

This goes on way too long, but I'm trying to be a big boy and develop a patience for books over 200 pages.  I stick it out for a couple decent scenes of villagers going insane and murdering each other, but that's about 5% of the text.  The last 15-20% are the heroes travelling underground to dispatch the monster the same way they did as children and it least they don't use a friggin' inhaler.

I have a bias against first person, and this novel confirmed that bias.  One chapter goes full third person, even calling the original narrator by name, while other scenes were "I learned about this later from police reports" or "The terrified eight year old told me about it in precise detail" and the like.

He also throws in what is supposed to be foreshadowing - "This was to be my last good day until the crisis ended", or "I now know what horrible blah blah", which has the effect of broadcasting "Everything ended up fine" every couple chapters.  Kind of the opposite of dread and tension.

The characterizations were okay, but these late 80s horror novels just got way too long for their own good.  For this kind of page length you need a lot higher body count.

You can get the criminally overpriced Kindle version here, or borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

Click here to read a preview.

The original paperback is currently cheaper.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Small Worlds of the World - Global Village - Everland - South Korea

This may be the most intricate of the copies, though the habit of lighting the figures from below makes the dolls look even creepier.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Horse Hockey - Bull Follows Fiction

I'll start here by saying that I deplore how some lazy debunkers find a single obscure example of a phenomena in fiction that predates an allegation as evidence of direct influence.  Of course, just because something happened in fiction first doesn't mean it can't happen in real life, but of more relevance here is the fact that reality and fiction are messier than that.

The transmission of cultural ideas does not consist of single "aha" moments.  It's nearly impossible to point to a single work and say it was the first of anything.  Everything steals from something else, and then gets bitten off some more.

Having said that, the Greys didn't become the stock alien until after Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  UFOs didn't have a standard saucer template until Kenneth Arnold - ironic here, as he described the ship's movements as saucer-like, not their shape.

Conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists can be an unimaginative bunch, and I swear that got exponentially worse with the internet.  That's one of the reasons I originally lost interest in the field - instead of inventing their own delusions the lunatics were just pointing at random sci-fi shows and saying it was a documentary.

I can't even bother to roll my eyes when I would read that the military has a Stargate like the Stargate in the movie Stargate.  Now you can go and research how the term Stargate was used in fiction prior to the movie, you can find the first usage of the term, you can trace the history of time travel and wormholes in science fiction, but you really don't need to.  Someone just saw the movie Stargate.  Or maybe the TV show - still can't get over how that was a thing.

Such blatant plagiarism is inevitably accompanied by grandiose justifications and further conspiracy theories:

  • The government doesn't want you to know the truth about wizards, so it presents Hogwarts as a fiction so that truth-tellers like me will be ridiculed.
  • The government is slowly introducing us to the idea of the Galactic Empire so that we won't panic when the Death Star comes into orbit.
  • Disney wanted to warn us about menace of talking, pantsless, ill-tempered mallards but had to disguise his warnings as fiction.

These are all bullpoop, but what's worse, it's bullpoop to cover for lazy intellectual thievery.  While I feel it's gotten worse in the last couple of decades, this phenomena goes back to the very origins of modern horse hockey - Helena Blavatsky.

I had assumed the influence was the other direction, but Blavatsky's work came after that of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race.  I'm not expert enough (nor do I care to wade through Blavatsky's bibliography) to say how much of an influence Bulwer-Lytton was on her, but I wouldn't say she lifted her entire cosmology from him.  However, there is the whole "ascended race with special powers living in the hollow earth" thing going on in both.

I'll deal with Blavatsky and the Coming Race in more depth later, but for now, "I'll just leave this here" as the kids like to say.

"Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton, in his Coming Race, describes it as the VRIL, used by the subterranean populations, and allowed his readers to take it for a fiction."
"Absurd and unscientific as may appear our comparison of a fictitious vril invented by the great novelist, and the primal force of the equally great experimentalist, with the kabalistic astral light, it is nevertheless the true definition of this force. Discoveries are constantly being made to corroborate the statement thus boldly put forth."
"The name vril may be a fiction; the Force itself is a fact doubted as little in India as the existence itself of their Rishis, since it is mentioned in all the secret works."
I'll conclude with this - Disney's Michael Eisner revealing the truth about the government withholding facts about alien contact.  A complex double-bluff?  Or just hitting up the X-Files demographic to promote a new attraction?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Old Time Radio - CBSRMT - Sign of the Beast

Lois Smith has acted as much as pretty much everyone else put together, usually as someone's Mom.  I looked her up to make sure the female role in this episode wasn't played by the fume-huffing narrator of Adventures in Balloonland, her line-reading was so bizarre.  Never heard so much over and underacting at once, and with such weird intonations.  It doesn't help that her character is supposed to be stupid and annoying.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Trackdown by Neil Hunter - Bodie the Stalker 1

by Neil Hunter (Mike Linaker)
Bodie the Stalker 1
Star 1979

Bodie is a bounty hunter who kills people.  A rich guy seeking public office wants him to kill some bandits that stole some guns.  Some people try to kill Bodie, he kills them and then sleeps with a prostitute then kills some more people.

I have a pretty high tolerance for cliches in my popular fiction, but Westerns may be worse than Romance as far as following a formula.  And Bodie seems worse than most about being a string of action and sex scenes with barely a page connecting them.

Which is entirely forgivable, as they're some fine action scenes.  Not to be outdone by his contemporaries in the Picadilly Cowboy scene, Linaker turns up the gore, including a lengthy description of a gunman getting caught under a moving train.  Maybe I'm the one getting jaded, but the violence seemed a little perfunctory this time around.

Linaker really excels in using outdoors setting, and I appreciate that it looks like he did a smidgen of research about Central Texas.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Slimer by Harry Adam Knight

by Harry Adam Knight (John Brosnan)
1983 Star

Three couples smuggling hash flee their sinking yacht to the dubious safety of an offshore oil rig.  Here they find an abandoned laboratory, stacks of empty clothing, and a ton of M-16s.

What follows is a rapier version of John Carpenter's The Thing.  A shape-shifting monster absorbs the memories and personalities along with the bodies of its victims, and after it absorbs the rapist psychopath of the group things turn extra ugly.  Despite the sleazy undertones, the book fades to black a bit, and wasn't as gory as I would have expected.

The ending had way too much exposition, but the means of dispatching the creature was pretty novel.  A very fast read, and one of the few books I would like to see expanded (or at least have a second location).

Not currently in print and a titch pricey on Amazon.

Made into a movie in 1995 called Proteus.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Small Worlds of the World - Small World - Suzhou Amusement Land - China

This one even uses a version of the song.  Looks horrible on purpose, like a bad Banksy installment or a level of Epic Mickey.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

White Boy Party Funk Rock - Mr. Bungle

The Pet Sounds of White Boy Party Funk Rock.  I admire Mike Patton but he's produced so little listenable music outside of Faith No More.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dark Messiah by David Alexander - Phoenix 1

Dark Messiah
by David Alexander
Phoenix 1
1987 Leisure Books

Damn, this is the high-test stuff right here, son.

Insane evangelist Luther Enoch orchestrates the nuclear apocalypse so he can take over the world with his SCORF troops led by John Tallon, a mercenary who gets off dosing women with LSD and having them raped to death by mutants.

He's opposed by Magnus Trench, a 'Nam vet who happened to be camping out a safe distance from one of Trench's bases near San Francisco.  His blood also is a cure for the plague that biological weapons inflicted on the population.

Like a lot of these books, it only takes ten days for the planet to go insane and split up into themed factions.

The Contams are contaminated with biological weapons, which makes them gang together and rape and kill the non-contaminated population.  At first blush they act like zombies, but they use weapons, talk, and are capable of organization.

There's the punk gang led by Klaatu who also rape and kill everyone they see, only with fewer blisters.

The US military seems to have been co-opted by Enoch's men, the SCORFs

Trench hooks up with the good guys after saving hardass prostitute September Song, a group of weirdos called the Family that at least don't rape anyone.  Trench joins their effort to leave the city.

Phoenix is absurd and knows it and doesn't give a damn.  Trench goes swinging in shooting his MINIMI machine gun and cracking skulls with Drunken Monkey Smash fists.  Heads explode, sending eyeballs bouncing around like an early Sam Raimi flick.

Probably as silly, though not as sci-fi, as Doomsday Warrior, and probably the most violent Men's Adventure book I've come across.

A better review over at Glorious Trash.

The entire series is bundled together for Kindle at Amazon.

Click here to read a preview.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Brother Blood by Donald Glut

Brother Blood
by Donald Glut
2010 Pulp 2.0 (originally 1969)

Brother Blood is an old-school vampire story set in swinging Sunset Strip of 1969.  The style and some of the plot mirrors the original Dracula.  The text is written in semi-epistolary style in the form of three separate first-person accounts: a real estate agent who refuses to sell a mansion to a black vampire, a journalist with a strangely behaving new girlfriend, and a stoned hippie who comes home to find his girlfriend dead.

The three men who have lost their women to Blacula work with a psychiatrist Van Helsing type to uncover a connection to a series of murders of white shopkeepers by the mysterious Night Marauders.  The whole thing culminates in a showdown in a burning decrepit mansion at sundown.

Despite the setting Brother Blood is pretty old-fashioned, only with more dope smoking and sex.  The vampires barely make an appearance and the horror elements are very restrained.  More charm than scares.

This was originally written in 1969 for publication in Germany - if it was published, I wasn't able to find a reference to it online - before being re-released in 2010.  I have to wonder if it was revised as there were constant references to the time period within the text.  Weirdly, it never comes out and says it's 1969.  It's the late sixties, or two years after 1967.  People don't talk like that, or at least they don't as I'm writing this in the mid teens of the early 21st century.  There's also a passing reference to Crips and Bloods, terms that don't seem to have been used until the early seventies.

I wonder if this affected the treatment of race relations as well, as the text seems to constantly apologize for its own premise while actually making it worse.  One gets into a dicey area having white protagonists face off against a cracker-hating black vampire, and Glut is aware of this.  Probably too aware, and constant statements like "I'm not prejudiced, but..." don't make things better.  There's also the whole buck fear-mongering of black men hypnotizing our white women into having sex with them, but no apologies there.

Donald Glut is a old school monster kid and horror geek, so there are a lot of pop culture references abounding, from Universal to Hammer films.

The hippie writes for a porn publisher that reprints classic pulps, likely a reference to Corinth Publications, an outfit Glut never worked for as far as I could tell.

The Night Marauder was a reference to a radio episode of the Shadow.

Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Chinaman Button

The Chinaman Button is a moral quandry from 1802's The Genius of Christianity which has been used in four suspense stories in four different ways.  The basic set up - someone is given an offer to gain a large sum of money, and in exchange a complete stranger will lose their life.

To be fair, the last three are derivative of the first, the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson.  I haven't read it, but from the spoliers the twist in the tale is a cheat and a lie.

Next is 1974's "The Chinaman Button", a radio drama for CBS Radio Mystery Theater.  This one is my favorite - the twist surprised me, and it managed not to drag.

Next is 1986's "Button, Button" from the 80's Twilight Zone.  Matheson took his name off it because he didn't like the different, vastly superior ending.  I remember the end chilling me as a kid, but there's only enough material here for maybe 10 minutes.

Not enough material for half of an hour-long show?  Let's drag it out to a feature length film.  2009's The Box has car chases and government conspiracies and aliens or something - if you can stomach Cameron Diaz then you watch it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

White Boy Party Funk Rock - Red Hot Chili Peppers

I had to convince a teenager the other day that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were once a rock band, that's how far they've strayed since their questionable peak in 1991 with Blood Sugar Sex Magik.  I'll admit to owning that cassette, along with 1989's Mother's Milk, but I had to fill out my Columbia House orders with something, and the late 80s were a rough time.  So bad that people actually welcomed grunge.

I always just assumed Mother's Milk was their first album, when in fact it's only their first listenable album.  The first two sound like coked up white boys from West Hollywood doing Bootsy Collins B-sides, while the third turned up the guitars and stupid yelling.

By Mother's Milk they managed to carry a tune, do covers of superior artists, and best of all, turn up Flea in the friggin mix.