E.R.Burrroughs, R.E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, Lin Carter or George R.R. Martin and a bit of pseudo sexism?

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, reviews on January 10th, 2014 by Craig

The winners are in each category:

Story teller

E.R.Burrroughs
R.E. Howard
Leigh Brackett
Lin Carter
George R.R. Martin (modern)

Ability to inspire, to thrill and excite
R.E. Howard
E.R.Burrroughs
Leigh Brackett
Lin Carter
George R.R. Martin (modern)

Consistency in plot, writing

Leigh Brackett
George R.R. Martin
R.E. Howard
Lin Carter
E.R.Burrroughs (modern)

I don’t want to seem like a George R.R. Martin basher because he is a very good writer and translates well on to the screen – I just don’t like modern fantasy very much. I can read Tim Powers for example but to me its pygmies sitting on the shoulders of giants. I probably don’t like the modern world either and it reflects on my liking of all things modern including writing.

I’d like to use  Brackett as the floating point, the only female among these writers.  I enjoyed the Martian Brackett more than her Skaith novels. I thought that they were very good, and at times really great. Having looked her up on wikipedia I fond she was an athletic tomboy and that’s no surprise. Ultimate respect to a woman working and excelling in a man’s world. I would have loved to meet her and I’m fairly certain she would have pasted me at volleyball.

In The Sword of Rhiannon, Brackett’s archaeologist Matt Carse enters the forgotten tomb of the Martian god Rhiannon and plunges into the Red Planet’s past. Vast oceans cover the land, legendary Sea-Kings rule from terraced palaces, there are heroes, anti heroines, slaves and loads of minor characters carrying swords and scowls around: In short, all the required elements for the juvenile mind. The language is at times superb, the pacing is great, the plotting accurate and my only criticism is really quite simple: Despite being an athletic tomboy Brackett was not a man. Ah ha you say – Politically incorrect, knuckle dragging chauvinist reveals inner soul. How can I state this offensive garbage when Brackett was more thoroughly steeped in the mores of American society – a friend of Bradbury and a lover of E.R. Burroughs – closer to the source of all this sword and sorcery fantasy than I will ever be?

The answer is quite simple and I rest my case with a paper called ‘Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Text’ in ‘Text & Talk’ Ed. Sarangi, Srikant.

The paper explores differences between male and female writing in a large subset of the British National Corpus covering a range of Genres in both fiction and non fiction. They found significant differences between male and female writing

I’m sure you don’t want to go too deeply into the paper but in simple terms the total number of nominals used by male and female authors is virtually identical but females use many more pronouns and males use many more noun specifiers. Also females exhibit greater usage of features identified by previous researchers as “involved”. Males exhibit greater usage of features which have been identified as “informational”.

It comes down to this: A female is likely to use ‘she’ and ‘her’ significantly more than a male writer. She’s also likely to go into reasons and emotions while a man, simple little fellow that he is, is likely to just tell you something straight.

On a more personal and intuitive level (I have intuitions) I noticed that while Brackett was superb in her description of certain aspects of war and savagery, when it actually came to fighting she lacked the Conan factor. I cannot recall a single example of Brackett reveling in the slaughter of hapless enemies or the delight in skewering someone on a sword.

This genuinely may have something to do with the functional parts of male and female anatomy and the influence this has on the more elevated thoughts in the unconscious. So, as a simple bloke if I was ever cast into one of these fantasy worlds and handed a sword I have no doubt that rather than swirl it above my head and shout ‘tally ho where is the heroine?’ I would lie down on the ground and cry in abject fear. However, in reading a fantasy novel I want the opponents to be ruthlessly slaughtered. Brackett just doesn’t want this, most likely because she’s a decent person and a girl.

In any case, Brackett – excellent genre authoress but not Howard or Burroughs.

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Jack Vance

Posted in Fantasy, Fantasy Influences, Heaven, SF Influences, SF Utopia, Uncategorized on May 30th, 2013 by Craig

I have just read that Jack Vance has passed away – one of the greatest Science Fiction and fantasy writers of this and perhaps any century.  A terribly sad loss

Lin Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George R.R. Martin and the Fantasy Dilemma

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, Reviews on March 21st, 2013 by Craig

It’s difficult to express why I like ‘Jandar of Callisto’ It’s obviously not a very good book: an unashamed pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘Princess of Mars’, with poor or variable writing at times, unconvincing characters and some awkward dialogue. Perhaps the best way to express this is by comparison with Burroughs himself and a modern fantasy ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George R R Martin.

First a quick plot summary – although if you’ve read ‘A Princess of Mars’ by Burroughs you hardly need look at the following paragraph.

Jonathan Dark is a helicopter pilot, forced down in the jungles of Cambodia, where he discovers the ancient city Arangkhôr. He slides into a mysterious well and teleports to another world – the Jovian moon, Callisto, is enslaved by the Yathoon, a race of intelligent insectoids and rescues, albeit briefly, the princess Darloona of Shondakar. A naughty Sky Pirate steals the princess and a few adventures follow.

The faults – well Burroughs was a far better story teller and this is effectively a specific Burroughs yarn. The dialogue between characters is utterly unconvincing and where Carter injects his own voice and reasoning and ideas – i.e. where he goes away from Burroughs – his innovations fail. The hero of ‘A Princess of Mars does make stupid mistakes but he is a hero; invincible, a master swordsman, an arrogant egotist, principled and brave, and he would never hit a woman. Jandar unfortunately resembles another character of Burroughs, Carson of Venus, who has been criticised by Burrough’s fans for being, well, a bit like Jandar of Callisto who bumbles insipidly from adventure to adventure being helped out by unlikely friends and, most damning of all, punches the princess.

It’s clear that Carter wanted to write a Burroughs yarn and during the writing tried to inject a ‘little’ more realism into the equation. Unfortunately the psychological motor for this kind of story is not realism – it’s simply about making the setting realistic enough so that the hero can do heroic things. It is an utter requirement that the hero beats all odds the princess is the most beautiful in the universe and the hero eventually sweeps her off to the bedroom.

The good bits. Well, it was a bit like Burroughs, the setting and descriptions were good, the narrator gives it the right fantastical feel; it was simple and easily read. Some of the characters were well drawn in a simplistic way and there were very few of them. Interestingly the description of the discovery and entrance to the mysterious well are perhaps the best drawn and most ‘literate’ – very reminiscent of R E Howard. The description of flight and flying machines, clearly drawn from experience, was as convincing as the jungles of both worlds.

I just read ‘A Clash of Kings’ by George R R Martin – well written, tightly plotted, peopled with deep and well drawn characters, almost mathematical in its precision, realistic in its descriptions – To be honest I was a bit bored for a few reasons. Firstly, it was too complex; secondly it was too realistic – to close to the medieval in its portrayal – and damningly for me, constantly filled with the introspections of the characters. The classic failing of most modern fantasy is this introspective nonsense where characters are given a chance to say how they feel and what they think. This fails largely because the characters think in modern terms – terms alien to the fantasy worlds to which they have been condemned – and it also fails because epic fantasies are about events not thoughts. Now ‘Jandar of Callisto’ is not particularly an epic – although that could be argued as transportation to an alien planet is a fairly epic event – but ‘Clash of Kings’ is one of a series of books purporting to be epic. It would perhaps become an epic if Martin removed the entire internal dialogue.

Carter makes none of these mistakes – the book is short, readable; there are only a few main characters, Jander thinks about things but then he’s the narrator. For an hour or so you’re carried off to a strange planet and seeking out the heroine with the panting breasts. In short you’re an adolescent and that’s where the best fantasy lies.

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Soap 7 review – over a decade late

Posted in Hell, Reviews, SF Dystopia, SF Influences on January 3rd, 2013 by Craig

The wonders of the internet. While trying to trace a pirate download of my SF story “Soap 7″ I discovered that  it had a very favourable review in 1991.

You can read it in the The Mouth of Sauron (III) June 1991 one  the now virtually defunct zines of the time.

http://www.whiningkentpigs.com/DW/oldzines/sauron7-3.pdf

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Heaven Maker – the strategic game

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, Hell on January 2nd, 2013 by Craig

Anyone purchasing ‘The Heaven Maker and other Gruesome Stories’ might be interested to know about this website

http://www.heavenmaker.com

 

“Heaven Maker is a stunning, high-octane, sci-fi strategy game, developed and published by Smite Entertainment”

My computer slows  down and dies when I try to go anywhere near it but I’ve no doubt the least electrical device owned by young people can operate it easily enough. I’m still kind of stunned to think that a paragraph from The Heaven Maker inspired the artist, Theo Stylianides, and as a consequence no doubt the entire virtual universe – especially as this is the kind of thing I would have killed for as a kid:  http://sttheo.cgsociety.org/gallery/894055/

As a bumbling scrawler myself  I take my hat off to Theo Stylianides but readers should be warned that the universe of my Heaven Maker is very different from his, and much more prosaic and earthly.

What is interesting though is that I originally conceived of The Heaven Maker’ as a novel and tried very hard to write an accurate description of Hell and the angels of Hell – I found that impossible and now along comes this – perhaps an indication that certain ideas are better served by other media- brilliant.

 

 

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Devil’s Tor: David Lindsay

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, Reviews on April 23rd, 2012 by Craig

devil's tor

Reading ‘A Voyage to Arcturus’ as a youth I find myself indebted to Lin Carter the American author of science fiction and fantasy: although I always liked his work mostly I am indebted to his erudition and his editorialship. If the Ballantine edition of ‘A Voyage to Arcturus’ had not been made readily available by Mr Carter my life would be immeasurably the poorer. Similarly I have to thank Resonance Books for their good sense in making relatively cheap copies of Devil’s Tor, The forgotten Lindsay Classic, available to the general public.

I have very little to say about this book. It is expertly and intuitively reviewed here by Murray Ewing. The only thing I would like to add is that I might have been continually reading for thirty five years or so since the discovery of Lindsay’s work. Only having read Devil’s Tor have I been struck again with the same passion and sense of wonder. The book is simply a work of genius. You will never read anything like it again.

Science fiction and fantasy aficionados will indubitably  be aware of the name Gollancz. Imagine how many wonderful manuscripts this prolific editor had the pleasure of reading for the first time: here’s what he said about Lindsay.

I am an indurated publisher. I have read hundreds of novels, but it affected me as profoundly as when I was an impressionable youth and read Poe for the first time!
— Victor Gollancz, quoted in The Strange Genius of David Lindsay, p. 95-96

But Devil’s Tor extends far beyond any genre. It is a singular disgrace to those who had responsibility for the safe keeping of Scottish Literature that Lindsay was not recognized as a genius in his own life time; perhaps his vision was too mercurial and perhaps they can be forgiven. However, it is unforgivable that even now his work is only on the fringe of Scottish Literature, acknowledged but not generally extolled. Go to any good bookshop in Scotland and you will find a fairly extensive list of classic Scottish literature – much of merit – but the Devil’s Tor, a book a magisterial magnificence, will not be found.

It’s time to wake up.

Scottish Wedding: A True tale from Edinburgh in the 1980’s

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven on February 14th, 2012 by Craig

When I was about twenty my brother fixed us up with a date with a pair of lovely Southern Belles from Georgia – finishing school the lot. They could demonstrate how to get out of a car without showing a leg, drink tea with finesse, walk elegantly; everything you’ve seen in ‘Gone with the Wind’. Beautiful girls but unbelievably posh. I was amazed because we were a pair of hopeless chancers with no prospects – in the toilets I asked him how he’d managed to even get near them.

Apparently, he’d been working at the Minto Hotel on the Southside and this party of about thirty Southern Belles and their chaperone were booked in the hotel. At the same time a wedding was going on in the function room. All the young ladies had gone to their beds early with strict instructions not to mix with the riff raff. My brother was working in one of the bars and got asked to come through to the lounge by the manager. The Manager explained ‘I’ve only lassies behind the bar and its going to kick off.’

My brother came into the function room. Huge wedding going on but apprehension everywhere – the reek of a potential melee hung in the air. Nervous looks, fists clenched on chairs, waitresses quivering with fear. But it was strange. An old lady was singing a mournful Gaelic ballad on the stage. Didn’t look provocative at all. My brother got behind the bar counter and whispered to one of the waitresses ‘What’s all the fuss?’

She replied that it was a wedding between some hard man from Piershill and some Highland girl. It had all been going fine and then naturally, because it was a wedding and the bride’s family were Teutchers, the bride had sung, then the father, then his son, then his uncle and his wife. They were now on about the twentieth interminable Gaelic ballad – those great long. long ballads with sparse melodies – and the hardmen from Piershill – whose patience would have been stretched by a single chorus of ‘Dancing Queen’ – were just on the edge of riot.

At this point, into the room walked the two southern Belles – the brave naughty ones that had sneaked downstairs against instructions – to have a glass of wine. With the grace of Spanish galleons they coasted up to the bar, totally unaware that it was a private function or that the atmosphere was as bleak as Culloden. At exactly the same time a pint of heavy sailed majestically over their heads and smashed against the bar. The whole room broke out into a seething riot. Big Teutchers and nasty hardmen from Piershill. Men women, children, the bride and groom.

My brother rushed out and desperately hustled them behind the bar, pulled the shutters down and hid them under the counter. As they cowered beneath the bar counter amidst the screaming, the blood, the breaking of chairs and the approaching police sirens one of the girls said ‘What’s happening?’

My brother replied ‘ Scottish wedding.’

The Eternal Lover: Edgar Rice Burroughs

Posted in Fantasy, Heaven, Reviews on February 4th, 2012 by Craig

‘NU, THE son of Nu, his mighty muscles rolling beneath his smooth bronzed skin, moved silently through the jungle primeval. His handsome head with its shock of black hair, roughly cropped between sharpened stones, was high held, the delicate nostrils questioning each vagrant breeze for word of Oo, hunter of men.’

The eternal Lover

The eternal Lover

So begins ‘The Eternal Savage’  or as my older edition terms  it ‘The Eternal Lover.’ The latter is the title I prefer. Just look at that for an illustration by one of the giants of  the Arts, J. Allen St. John.

Burroughs was a master story teller and as prolific as they come. This one was written in 1925 after the ninth Tarzan novel (Tarzan and the Antmen) and the fifth Martian (The Chessmen of Mars) and is, as always with Burroughs, a flawed masterpiece. It would be easy to harp on about the plot coincidences and inconsistencies – Nu travels forwards (and back) in time and his girlfriend Victoria Custer travels back (and forward) so that they can consummate their eternal relationship. There are earthquakes occurring when you need them and extraordinary luck as heroes stumble on villains just before they ravish the maid. It would be easy but unfair; because Burroughs is not about literature or reason; he is about stories and escapism.

If you have seen A Million Years BC (and perhaps admired Raquel Welsh and a cohort of savage women) you will have seen a film largely stolen from Burroughs’ Eternal Lover. The Pterodactyl scene is a direct lift. The meeting of tribes, the generally wrong facts about the life of our ancestors. It’s more or less The Eternal Savage without the clever bits on reincarnation and time travel.

As a hopeless romantic I would recommend this book highly. It breathes a strange life of its own. The romance between the two lovers is vivid and touching (if you suspend all rational judgment and allow for some non PC moments) The characters are unforgettable and its simply a great tale.

Dunsany: Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of the Shadow Valley

Posted in Fantasy, Reviews on June 21st, 2011 by Craig

Inspired by Nosferatu, a member of the Vault of Evil, whose unstinting gratitude offered free books to the read-hungry here’s a review of an author I much admired as a young man.

David A Riley has remarked somewhere that he doesn’t read much fantasy nowadays and I’m the same. Having considered this I wondered whether a certain bleak cynicism creeps up in the middle years – fantasy becomes whimsical, less supported by any true conviction that there are better things beyond us, perhaps it becomes a childish throwback. Who knows?

Dunsany’s, Don Rodriguez:, was published in 1922. It was his first novel and is set in a Romantic Spain that never decorated a history book because it never existed. The device of Spain seems to be a means of creating a parallel mystical world but Dunsany in this first book seemed also unwilling to risk an uncompromising fantasy world without something tangible for his readership to cling on to – hence Spain. Sufficiently far off to be romantic, sufficiently near to be comprehensible.

Chronicles of Shadow Valley is basically flawed. The modern humour is fine if you like modern humour. At times the prose rambles. It’s somewhat episodic. It’s simply not as good as later novels. But it still shines well above most modern fantasy authors on a number of levels. The most paramount being perhaps the beautiful use of language,

‘he dreamed he walked at night down a street of castles strangely colossal in an awful starlight, with doors too vast for human need, whose battlements were far in the heights of night…’

followed maybe by an ability to create a sense of whimsical longing for other realms which would bear later fruit in more mature works; to lesser degrees its use of symbolism, its understanding of humanity and its characterization.

Lovecraft’s ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ was inspired in part by Dunsany but if you are a horror afficionado I wouldn’t take Rodriguez as your first door into Dunsany’s world  unless it is to have a brief look at the chapter on the Professor of Saragossa which is a brilliant description of a magician and his powers. The Professor takes the hero on a journey through space to witness marvels beyond comprehension. Wish I could have gone too.

Inspired by Nosferatu, a member of the Vault of Evil, whose unstinting gratitude offered free books to the read-hungry here’s a review of an author I much admired as a young man.

David A Riley has remarked somewhere that he doesn’t read much fantasy nowadays and I’m the same. Having considered this I wondered whether a certain bleak cynicism creeps up in the middle years – fantasy becomes whimsical, less supported by any true conviction that there are better things beyond us, perhaps it becomes a childish throwback. Who knows?

Dunsany’s, Don Rodriguez:, was published in 1922. It was his first novel and is set in a Romantic Spain that never decorated a history book because it never existed. The device of Spain seems to be a means of creating a parallel mystical world but Dunsany in this first book seemed also unwilling to risk an uncompromising fantasy world without something tangible for his readership to cling on to – hence Spain. Sufficiently far off to be romantic, sufficiently near to be comprehensible.

Chronicles of Shadow Valley is basically flawed. The modern humour is fine if you like modern humour. At times he prose rambles. It’s somewhat episodic. It’s simply not as good as later novels. But it still shines well above most modern fantasy authors on a number of levels. The most paramount being perhaps the beautiful use of language,

‘he dreamed he walked at night down a street of castles strangely colossal in an awful starlight, with doors too vast for human need, whose battlements were far in the heights of night…’

followed maybe by an ability to create a sense of whimsical longing for other realms which would bear later fruit in more mature works; to lesser degrees its use of symbolism, its understanding of humanity and its characterization.

Lovecraft’s ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ was inspired in part by Dunsany but if you are a horror afficionado I wouldn’t take Rodriguez as your first door into Dunsany’s world  unless it is to have a brief look at the chapter on the Professor of Saragossa which is a brilliant description of a magician and his powers. The Professor takes the hero on a journey through space to witness marvels beyond comprehension. Wish I could have gone too.

Des lewis Competition

Posted in Fantasy on June 13th, 2011 by Craig

Des Lewis is throwing a dice in this scam of a gambling whizz. Read below and if you like your weirdtongue weird have a look

Des Lewis wordsmith extraordinaire has decided to give some books away for a dread price – only a little piece of your soul;  he tells it in his own words here

Treasures from an Unfair Lottery

Posted on June 12, 2011 by nullimmortalis

I have a number of old editions of NEMONYMOUS anthology books, four remaining copies of the out of print WEIRDMONGER (now worth quite a lot if signed), a few spare of my contributor copies of the new novel NEMONYMOUS NIGHT, and AGRA ASKA and ONLY CONNECT…all available to be signed by me, if required.  All free, if you’re lucky in a no-rules, no health-and-safety enterprise. No catches or swindles. Just my arbitrary decision based on secret dice throws. Well, you know me.  You have possibly nothing to lose but  something to gain.

If you are prepared to chance your arm with the Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction, please convey your requirements in this lottery of fate. The only thing you will be asked to pay by paypal is shipping – IF you are unlucky.

My email bfitzworth@yahoo.co.uk for your deals or no deals.