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Feb 26 2015 10:00am

Rich and Strange: “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander

Lightspeed 57 Hereabouts on Rich and Strange, I like to keep things from getting same-y—odd streak of tiger/beast-lover stories notwithstanding—since part of my project with this column is to broaden my own reading as well as comment on the stuff I like. So I’m delighted to add a no-holds-barred pulp action cuss-fest to the roster with Brooke Bolander’s amazing “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead,” from this month’s issue of Lightspeed.

Full Disclosure: I’m a columnist for Lightspeed; my first column there will appear next week. Brooke Bolander and I follow each other on Twitter and share a passion for cucumbers so intense that it may well lead to some sort of unexamined bias in her favour.

[Knock that shot back before you get shot in the back]

Jul 26 2013 2:00pm

Past Forward: Three Comics That Remember the Future Like It Was Yesterday

The future isn’t what it was supposed to be—but on comic books’ infinite tablet the present can be anything we feel like. Three new comics projects—one newly created yet a century old, one from a rich canon of vintage superheroes that has yet to be produced, and one that is the biggest news of what hasn’t happened yet—make the immediate future bright and give time new meaning.

[close the loop]

Jul 17 2013 10:30am

Oh, Nothing... Just Harlan Ellison Doing a Book Signing at Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop

Harlan Ellison Sweeney Todd Barber Shop book signing

When Harlan Ellison invites you to Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop you...well, honestly, you would seriously question that invitation.

But you’d miss out on one of the more entertaining book signings around. The L.A. Times’ David L. Ulin reports today on a two-stage signing that notorious author Harlan Ellison held at Sweeney Todd’s in Hollywood on July 16th for the upcoming re-release of two of his early street gang stories “Pulling a Train” and “Getting in the Wind.” While he got his hair cut, the 79 year-old author essentially shot the shit with reporters and fans, then headed over to La Luz De Jesus Gallery and Soap Plant to finish the signing. Also at one point he pulled out a switchblade because Harlan Ellison.

Check out the full account at the Times story linked above. And check out tons of great photos taken by Lee Joseph at the event over on the Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop Facebook page.

Mar 20 2012 12:00pm

Why Buck Rogers Should Be the Next Pulp SF Hero to Make a Comeback

Despite many moviegoers not having any clue who or what John Carter was all about, the movie did prove one thing: bygone pulp SF heroes never die, they just get remade, rebooted, re-imagined or subjected to a host of other transformative verbiage. And even though John Carter hasn’t made its money back yet; the critical consensus from the SFF community, (including a review by yours truly), seems to be generally positive in an “it was fun” kind of way.

Now that we’ve had some old-fashion fun with John Carter, which aw-shucks SF pulp hero will be invading our movie or TV screens next? Based on the mood of the times, my space dollars are on Buck Rogers. Why? Because he’s the classic-fish-out-water sci-fi adventure hero, and unlike John Carter, EVERYBODY knows his name.

[Read more]

Aug 16 2011 5:04pm

The Red Herring to Rule Them All: Carter Dickson’s The Skeleton in the Clock

Skeleton in the Clock by Carter DicksonI need to start this essay with two apologies, one for the embarrassingly long hiatus since my last essay, and one for the fact that this essay is not about Ellery Queen.

1. I have been struggling with a variety of health problems since I broke my ankle last year. (I plan to celebrate the one-year anniversary by NOT BREAKING ANYTHING.) I don’t want to go into boring detail, but it’s been a year since I had an ordinary, restful night’s sleep without the use of prescription drugs. Ergo, it has gotten harder and harder to write (or to do much of anything else); these posts are one of the things that have suffered, and I apologize for that.

2. And I need to apologize for the fact that this essay is not about Ellery Queen. I’m not done writing about EQ by any means, but the mystery that’s been exercising my mind recently is The Skeleton in the Clock (1948) by a different Golden Age pseudonymous writer, Carter Dickson.

[Read more]

Jul 15 2011 1:02pm

“I Double Doc Dare You!” — Reunion in Bronze

Doc Savage adventures The Desert Demons from Altus Press

From 1933 to 1949, Doc Savage strode tall through the pages of pulp fiction and cemented himself as one of the “greats” of the genre. Not as much of a household name as, say, The Shadow, Doc can claim a passel of passionate admirers, and a new Man of Bronze novel is cause for celebration. Thank Altus Press for that.

Doc’s publishing history is a fascinating one. After his pulp heyday, the character found new life in reprints in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, owing something to the “camp” craze. In other words, “modern” audiences found the Bronze Giant’s original adventures could be read with an entirely new mindset. As the Bantam reprints wound down, Doc fan and author Will Murray pushed forward with the idea of new adventures. What elevated him above others of the same bent was that Murray was armed with the keenest of weaponry: original Doc Savage writer/creator Lester Dent’s notes and unpublished fragments.

[About new Doc Savage pulp adventure The Desert Demons]

Apr 20 2011 3:51pm

When Investigating is the Only Thing You’re Good At: Stumptown by Greg Rucka

Stumptown by Greg RuckaDex Parios is a P.I. in Portland. She drinks, smokes, has a gambling problem and hasn’t had a date in years. When her debts start to escalate the casino owner offers a way to clear her tab. Her granddaughter has gone missing and no one has seen the girl for days. It sounds simple enough, but only minutes after Dex visits the girl’s apartment someone physically threatens her and tells her to stay out of other people’s business. So begins the first chapter of “Stumptown and The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini).”

[Read more]

Sep 9 2010 6:05pm

Free Comics! Slightly Scanned.

For comic fans, history fans, and comics history fans, the Digital Comics Museum is offering downloads and scans of public domain comic books from the 1940s and ’50s. There are a massive amount of titles and issues available, from Captain Science to Sherlock Holmes to Frisky Fairy Tales to the chaste Sweet Sixteen Magazine, and many, many more. You can also find the very same horror comics that led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority.

Clear some space on your hardrive and dive in. Entertainment from decades gone by can be an amazingly personal window into societal norms of the past that we’ve since rejected, and these comics personify that to a detail you can’t quite find in movies, radio, or television from that era. It’s also fascinating to read these comics knowing that the maturation of the comic book as a storytelling device is just around the corner...

Chris Greenland thinks “Captain Science” is a swell nickname but probably not a swell occupation. Who wants to be in charge of all that science, anyway?

Oct 8 2009 3:43pm

Where the saints never tread: Criminal #1 Review

Criminal #1
Sinners Part One

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Colors by Val Staples
Published by ICON (Marvel Comics)

As I sit here staring at a blank page, I try to find the words to describe why Criminal is one of my favorite comic books of all time. For those that frequent the corners of the internet that I do you’ll know how much I’m into Ed and Sean’s work. Much of it I’m still discovering and believe me that’s only a good thing. As the title states it’s a book about the underbelly of society in all of its forms. There are no saints within these pages. This is pure crime noir at its finest.

[Flip the page to read more—beware spoilers]

Feb 10 2009 10:22am

The Carbon Footprint of Reading

Every time I go book hunting, I think of the poet Muslih-uddin Sa’di.

Sa’di was a 13th century Persian who influenced the 19th century New England Transcendentalists.  You remember those guys: the Emerson-Thoreau crowd who believed you could find the truth only by transcending the material world and drifting into a state of pure intuition.  Or something cool like that.

Anyway, the poet Sa’di wrote a verse that has stayed with me for years, and I silently recite it every time I plop down my credit card to buy another stack of books.

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but left,
Two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Picture this.  Your 401k just crashed, your mortgage feels like a black hole, and this morning your company announced another round of layoffs.  Would you sell your last loaf of bread to buy flowers?  Well, substitute “books” for “hyacinths,” and I’m there.

[Read more about the booklover’s existential dilemma...]

Feb 8 2009 1:58pm

Crime! Horror! Adventure! Pulp Rides Again at Comic Con

Day Two. The Javits Center, midtown Manhattan’s loving tribute to the Thunderdome, continues to intrigue me. Running from panel to panel, I keep expecting to see strange tentacles slithering around darkened corners—and not in a sexy, hentai kind of way. Unless, that is, you find Unnameable Horror sexy, in which case you may enjoy my favorite moment from yesterday’s Pulp discussion, when Weird Tales editor Stephen Segal remarked, “Cthulhu has entered the public domain,” and someone behind me muttered, “May the gods help us all...”

Segal was on hand with an array of experts representing various areas of pulp fiction publishing and fandom for a panel on the future of “the art form that started it all.” Weird Tales, which celebrated its 85th anniversary last year, has managed to keep the spirit of the Pulps alive and well over the course of several revivals; its current incarnation is now seeking to maintain and extend that legacy in print while increasing its online presence through features like “365 Days of Blasphemous Horrors,” showcasing a new Lovecraft-inspired painting by artist Steven Archer for every day of the year.

While a large part of the panel discussion centered on the current and upcoming revivals of The Whisperer and Doc Savage (by panelist Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books), the Green Hornet and Kato (just announced by panelist Joe Gentile’s Moonstone Books), and the script for a new Hollywood adaptation of classic pulp hero The Shadow, I found that some of the most exciting contributions to the topic came from writer and publisher Charles Ardai, founder and editor of the excellent Hard Case Crime series.

Ardai’s current project, the Gabriel Hunt novels set to launch in May 2009, evokes the hard-boiled glamor of classic Adventure pulp in an accessible, inexpensive, mass market format: “a fun, popcorn thrill,” as he puts it. Ardai points out the while noirish crime-related pulp has been undergoing a renaissance for some time now, the globe-trotting exploits of “the two-fisted American Adventurer” have perpetually served as a successful template for Hollywood films while virtually disappearing from bookstores. The Hunt books, with their fabulous retro covers by Glen Orbik, will hopefully bring the genre back into mainstream public consciousness, proving once again that the chills and thrills and enjoyable escapism of the Pulps never really go out of style.

So to sum up, it seems the Crime business is good, Adventure is on the rise, and Horror and Weirdness abide. And of course, as always, C’thulhu fhtagn...most likely somewhere in the sinister bowels of the Javits Center.

Aug 27 2008 4:10pm

Has Gonzo Gone Dodo?

Earlier this month, first-time novelist Mark Teppo asked on his blog. “Where is the 21st Century gonzo pulp?” It made me stop and think. What was he talking about?

You see, Mark had stopped in a bookstore in the middle of nowhere. On his way out, he found an entire bookshelf devoted to pulp novels. Mark was rushed, but he was able to grab London, Bloody London by Michael Avallone.

The book sounds crazy. It features Avallone’s super-spy, Ed Noon (about whom Avallone wrote several dozen novels), who:

“To the casual eye, Ed Noon might have looked like a typical American tourist, wandering through London with his eyes wide open, peering in all directions. But the sights Noon wanted to see didn’t include Big Ben, Carnaby Street, or the swinging sin-spots of Soho. Noon was hunting an aging master scientist, a wizard child prodigy, a queer little man named Malvolio, a sinister secret agent named O’Connell, a super sex-bomb named Christine, a few other assorted lads and lasses with wanton wiles and lethal ways.”

[Read more behind the cut...]