Friday, April 29, 2011

Something of Interest to Howard Fans

Over on the Black Gate website, Brian Murphy has posted an essay on Novalyne Price Ellis' One Who Walked Alone.  If you're a Howard fan and haven't seen it yet, you'll want to check it out.  While you might not agree with everything he has to say, Murphy has at least thought out his remarks and actually knows something about Howard.  Unlike some of his critics.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sins of the Fathers

Thirteen Years Later
Jasper Kent
Pyr Books, 511 p., $17.00

...He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.
                                                    Num. 14:18b (NAS)

I recently reviewed Twelve, the first book in what is being called the Danilov Quintet.  In that review, I stated that I thought Twelve was one of the best vampire novels I had read in a long time.  So the question to be addressed now is:  Does Thirteen Years Later live up to the standard of Twelve?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hugo and Campbell Awards Nominees

This year's nominees for the Hugo and Campbell Awards have been posted.  Locus Online has the complete list here, as does the Renovation site.

Congratulations and good luck to all nominees.

I don't have much to say except I don't see much in the way of sword and sorcery, at least not that I recognize.  I haven't read nearly as many of the nominees as I should have.  A few of the titles I'm not familiar with, so there may be some S&S I'm not recognizing.  Disappointing, but not surprising.

The second thing I find interesting is in the short story category.  All the other fiction categories (novel, novella, novelette) have five nominees, while the short story only has four.  That's assuming there's not an error, and one was inadvertently left off.  Of those four, only one, "For Want of a Nail", by Mary Robinette Kowal, was published in a print magazine (Asimov's, Sept. 2010).  The others were published online.  All of the novelette and all but one of the novella nominees were published in print venues.

A Bit of Shamelss Self-Promotion

If you've read this blog in the last few weeks, you've seen me mention Home of Heroics over on the Rogue Blades Entertainment website.  I've got a column, Dispatches From the Lone Star Front, there, and the first one went up a little while ago.  Check it out.  The column will be a little different from the type of things I write about here.  I'll be focusing on factual heroes more than fictional, with the emphasis being on those from Texas, since that's where I live.  Hence the title.

The Adventures Fantastic Interview: Mark Finn, Part 2

Last week, in part 1 of this interview, Mark Finn discussed his own writing, both biography and fiction.  In this installment, he continues sharing his thoughts on other Howard related topics.

AF:  Do you think there been any faithful adaptations of Howard to film?

MF:  Howard films…I have to tell you a quick story, an anecdote.  We managed to get ahold of a copy of Solomon Kane from a friend who taped a bootleg.  My wife Cathy was real excited to sit down and watch it.  We were five minutes in, and she said, "Was this Robert E. Howard right here?"
And I said, "No."
Then she said, "Okay."  And we watch a little bit more.  He goes through the things he goes through and he's killing people left and right, and she says, "This has got to be Howard."
And I said, "No, this isn't in any of the Solomon Kane stories."  
I said, "I'll tell you what.  I'll let you know when the Howard stuff shows up 'cause I'll probably get real excited about it."
She goes, "Great."
Thirty minutes go by.  She says, "He's met the family now.  Is this Howard?"
"No, this isn't Howard."
We get to about ten minutes before the end, and she says, "Honey, is there any Robert E. Howard in this?"
I said, "Well, the guy's name is Solomon Kane." 
She said, "Honey, that doesn't count."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blogging Kull: The Striking of the Gong

Kull:  Exile of Atlantis
Del Rey
trade paper, 317 p., $17

This is one of the shorter Kull stories, only three and a half pages in the Del Rey edition.  In fact it's more of vignette or a philosophical meditation than an actual story.  In it Howard reflects on some of the philosophy he'd been reading and meditating on.

The story, to the extent that it is a story, consists mostly of a dialogue between Kull and an old man.  Kull finds himself in darkness, a great throbbing in his head.  He's not sure where he is or how he came to be there.  He rises to his feet, sees a light, and begins to walk towards it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Troll Quotes

Okay, Al Harron over at The Blog That Time Forgot has posted something you have got to see.  Robert E. Howard fans especially, if you haven't seen this, you need to.  It's hilarious.  Make sure you read all the way to the end.  Great job, Al!  And while it's probably too subtle for a lot of people, I think it's genius.  Thanks muchly for the laugh.  I really needed it this evening.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Jon Sprunk, author of Shadow's Son (reviewed here) and the forthcoming Shadow's Lure, has the weekly guest blog over at Home of Heroics.  He lists some of his heroes from various fantasy series.  Check them out and see how they compare with yours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Henry Kuttner's Prince Raynor: The Citadel of Darkness

Elak of Atlantis
Henry Kuttner
Planet Stories
$12.95, trade paperback, 224 pgs. 

This is the second and final tale of Prince Raynor that Kuttner wrote.  I don't think it's quite up to the standards of "Cursed be the City", which I discussed earlier in the week.  But it's still a good yarn.

The story opens with Raynor and his Nubian servant Eblik coming upon a dying archer in the forest.  He's part of a group of refugees they, along with the warrior maid Delphia, had put together after the close of the previous story.  Prince Raynor's horse had gone lame the previous day, and he and Eblik had fallen behind the group.  The archer is the only survivor except for Delphia, who has been kidnapped.  Raynor and Eblik set out in pursuit.

While waiting for the moon to rise, they are approached in the forest by an old man in a robe.  From his description, he sounds a lot like Gandalf, and his name, Ghiar, isn't that far off.  Only this story predates The Lord of the Rings by a number of years. 

Sale at Norilana Books

Norilana Books is having a foreclosure and moving sale.  Details are available here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Adventures Fantastic Interview: Mark Finn, Part 1

Mark Finn should be no stranger to hard-core Robert E. Howard fans.  He is the author of the Howard biography Blood and Thunder as well as numerous articles and essays about the man from Cross Plains.  In addition to his writings about Robert E. Howard, Mark is also a fiction author with a number of short stories to his credit.  He took time out of his schedule recently to sit down with Adventures Fantastic to answer a few questions.  Here, in the first of two parts to this interview, Mark discusses why he writes, why he felt the need to write a biography of Robert E. Howard, his admiration of jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden, and what other projects he has in the works.

AF:  Why do you write?

MF:  Why do I write?  That's a good question.  When I was a lot younger, I wanted to be an entertainer of some sort.  I went through a period where I remember in the 70s television would always have these variety shows, so I got to see ventriloquists and magicians, and guys who could do impressions, Rich Little.  I used to watch the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts with Foster Brooks.  I didn't understand why it was so funny, but my parents just thought it was the best thing ever.

AF:  I remember those.

MF:  Oh, they were so funny.  And Foster was great.  I mean really underappreciated kind of guy.  So I went through phases where I studied ventriloquism, and I studied magic.  I still play with magic on a strictly amateur basis right now.  But as I got older I wanted to do special effects makeup for the movies and found kind of accidentally that I was good at writing.  And I kept wanting to do other things.  I wanted to draw.  I've always wanted to tell stories.  I've always wanted to entertain people and tell stories.  However that needed to happen.  I found that of all the things I wanted to do, the thing that came easiest to me was writing.  If I spent a lot of time and went to school and learned art and got a degree in commercial art or graphic art and sat down and made an effort at getting into comics, I probably would be pretty good.  But I was always naturally better at writing than I was anything else, so by the time I was fifteen, I met somebody, incidentally, who was gifted in art the way I was in writing, so that's what made me go, "Oh, I get it.  All right."  And he and I have been friends, and he, John Lucas, has pursued the art career, and I've pursued the writing career.  For me it boils down to entertaining people, storytelling. I think that's our primary means of communicating with one another, whether it's a joke or "Honey, you won't believe the day I've had."  It's all stories.  I like that form.

AF:  What got you interested in Robert E. Howard?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Henry Kuttner's Prince Raynor: Cursed be the City

Elak of Atlantis
Henry Kuttner
Planet Stories
trade paperback, 221, $12.99

In addition to the four Elak stories collected in this book, the only two stories Kuttner wrote about Prince Raynor are also included.  These stories were published in Strange Stories, a rival of Weird Tales published by Better Publications.  Started in 1939, this pulp was often seen at the time as a dumping ground for stories rejected by Weird Tales.  It only lasted until 1941.

In a way I prefer the Prince Raynor tales to those of Elak.  They are set in a more recent prehistory, one in which the ancient kingdoms we know existed are beginning to take shape, rather than some mythical past. As a result, any anachronisms are less glaring.  Also, the prose is leaner and more polished than in some of the early Elak tales, especially the first one, "Thunder in the Dawn".

Both "Cursed be the City" and its sequel, "The Citadel of Darkness", open with quotes from something  called "The Tale of Sakhmet the Damned".  What this is exactly, we're never told, nor does anyone named Sakhmet ever appear.  It's a nice touch, though.

The story opens with the fall of Sardopolis, capital city of the kingdom of Gobi.  The king is killed by the conqueror Cyaxeres, and the king's son Prince Raynor is taken to the dungeon to be tortured.  Cyaxares has a companion and adviser, Necho, who may not be human.  Raynor is rescued by his Nubian friend and servant Eblik.  Together they make their way to the temple of Ahmet.  There a dying priest tells them that when Sardopolis was founded, a great forest god was displaced, but it was prophesied that he would one day return to set up his altar again in the ruins of Sardopolis.  That day is at hand.  Raynor and Eblik are given the task of going to a group of bandits led by the Reaver of the Rock and informing them of the fall of Sardopolis.  They've been waiting for generations for the old god to return.

Cyaxares' men follow them.  The Reaver and his men stay to fight.  Raynor and Eblik, guided by the Reaver's daughter Delphia, a formidable fighter in her own right, take a talisman to free the forest god.  Most readers will recognize the name of the forest god.

The story moves well and has a satisfying, if not exactly upbeat, resolution.  In fact, the story ends on a pretty dark note. 

Kuttner continues to break from pulp conventions here.  Eblik is more than just a black sidekick, and Delphia takes an active role in the events.  The tone and feel of this story, as well as that of "The Citadel of Darkness", is much more Howard-esque than the Elak stories.  In those, Kuttner tended to play the sidekick Lycon for comic relief.  None of Howard's fantasy heroes had true sidekicks, although at times they had companions, who were treated as equals.  In the Prince Raynor stories, while Eblik may be a servant, and upon occasion is reminded that he is, he's still portrayed as a companion, not a stereotype to be played for laughs.  This was an uncommon portrayal of someone of African descent in the pulps of this era. 

By this time C. L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry had made her appearance, so a strong active woman wasn't exactly groundbreaking.  Still, to cast Delphia as a competent fighter and one of the leaders of the bandits was a departure from the typical standards of the day.

So to sum up, if, as some have stated, Kuttner was trying to fill the void in sword and sorcery stories left by Robert E. Howard's death, I think he succeeded more with Prince Raynor than with Elak.  It's unfortunate that he only wrote two stories featuring the character.  We'll look at the other tale in a future post.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Need a New Place to Live?

If you are looking to move up in the world; being evicted; pestered by people breaking into your dwelling with crosses, stakes, and holy water; or just not able to get any work done because there's an angry mob with torches and pitchforks outside every night, and if you have a taste for the unusual, then perhaps you might want to consider one of the following properties:

Make sure to read the ad in the hypertext as well.

What is Best in Life?

There's been a lot of discussion about the upcoming Conan movie, and the trailer in particular has fanned the flames with one quote.  Jack Mackenzie summarizes the controversy this morning at Home of Heroics.  If you're a Robert E. Howard fan, you'll want to check it out.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Odds and Ends

Between allergies, taxes, and trying to finish my upcoming column for Home of Heroics, I'm a little behind in getting some things up that I've been working on.  It might be next week before anything substantial is posted since I'll be traveling over the weekend starting tomorrow.  In the meantime, check out the new material at Home of Heroics if you aren't already doing so.  Yesterday's guest column was by John O'Neill, publisher of Black Gate, in which he talked about how Scholastic Books got him hooked on science fiction and fantasy.  It brought back memories for me, because I used to read those books as well.  My son is now starting to read them, and I'm looking forward to what he's going to be bringing home.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who's visited Adventures Fantastic, especially in the last couple of weeks.  Traffic seems to be picking up, and I appreciate your interest, support, and comments.  I've got some cool things planned for the next couple of months, including a two-part interview with Robert E. Howard scholar Mark Finn, some Long Looks at Short Fiction, a review of Jasper Kent's Thirteen Years Later, a look at Henry Kuttner's Prince Raynor stories, and some more Kull.  So stick around.  It's only gonna get better.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

E-Book Prices: A Not-So-Brief Rant

Ok, the main point of this post is to vent my spleen.  I'm not sure what good it will do other than perhaps get some frustration out of my system.  But if you're reading this, you're probably among the people who would most understand.

I was browsing in the local Barnes and Noble over the weekend.  There were a number of books there in multiple genres that looked intriguing (no big surprise).  One in particular seemed to be a really good fit for this blog.  It was a new release in mass market paperback, and no, I'm not going to tell you the title.  I'll refrain out of respect to the author.  You'll see why in a minute.  It appeared to be something that would move quickly to the top of the TBR pile, both because it looked like something I would really enjoy as well as something the people who read this blog would be interested in.

Now, before I go any further, you need to understand something to get some context.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cool Stuff at Rogue Blades' Home of Heroics

There have been a couple of posts up at Home of Heroics, the new feature on the Rogue Blades Entertainment site, the last few days.  Friday Bruce Durham reviewed Howard Andrew Jones' Desert of SoulsThis morning, Luke Forney surveyed the graphic adaptations of Robert E. Howard's work, including Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, and Red Sonja.  Interesting stuff, so check it out if you haven't already.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cloud Roads

The Cloud Roads
Martha Wells
Night Shade Books
Trade paperback, 278 p., $14.95
Various e-book formats

What's that, you say?  You haven't read Martha Wells?

Shame on you.

You've been missing out.  And The Cloud Roads is the perfect place to find out what you've been missing.  It's a stand-alone, at least so far, although I hope it doesn't stay that way.

This is a dense, complexly layered novel.  And that's a good thing.  The story concerns Moon, an orphan who doesn't know who or what he is.  Moon is a shape-shifter, able to take either the winged form you see on the gorgeous cover, or a humanoid shape called a groundling  because it's wingless.  In his wanderings since his family was killed, he's never come across any others of his kind.  The closest he's come is a race called the Fell, who look a lot like his winged form.  Only the Fell are feared and hated by everyone.  They have the nasty tendency to move in, destroy a city, and eat the inhabitants.  Not exactly the best of neighbors; when the Fell move in, there really does go the neighborhood.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blogging Kull: The Screaming Skull of Silence

Kull:  Exile of Atlantis
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey
trade paperback, $17.00, 317 p.

This is the first of four extremely short stories in the annals of Kull, or at least first in the order of arrangement in this volume.  This one is different from any of the Kull stories that have come before it. It was submitted to Weird Tales, but Farnsworth Wright obviously didn't care for it since it wasn't published until 1967 in the Lancer Books volume King Kull.

The tale opens with Kull listening to Brule, his chancellor Tu, Ka-nu the Pictish ambassador, and the slave and scholar Kathulos discussing philosophy (nothing new there).  Kathulos is saying that what we perceive as reality is an illusion.  To make his point, he gives an example of sound and silence, saying that sound is the absence of silence, while silence is the absence of sound.  Kathulos mentions that Raama, the greatest sorcerer who ever lived, thousands of years ago locked a primordial silence in a castle in order to save the universe.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Charles Saunders Guest Blogs at Home of Heroics

Wednesdays at Home of Heroics is the day for guest blogs.  For the inaugural guest blog,  Charles Saunders, author of Imaro, has written a thought provoking piece on the role of fear in the heart of a hero.  He looks at three examples:  Robert E. Howard's Conan, Karl Edward Wagner's Kane, and his own Imaro.  Check it out. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Noseless Horror

Tales of Weird Menace
Robert E. Howard
The Robert E. Howard Foundation Press
473 p., $45 REHF members, $50 nonmembers

Tales of Weird Menace collects the, what else, weird menace stories of Robert E. Howard.  The centerpiece of the volume is Skull-Face.  Since I've written at length about that tale,we'll go on to the second.

This is "The Noseless Horror".  It's a brief tale, and in the interest of fair warning, I should tell you I'm going to include spoilers in this discussion.  The plot is pretty simple.  The narrator, called only Slade, and John Gordon are spending the night at the isolated country manor of Sir Thomas Cameron, noted Egyptotologist.  Whether this is the same John Gordon who has such a prominent role in Skull-Face isn't clear, but it's highly  unlikely.  This Gordon is described as a wealthy sportsman, whereas the Gordon of Skull-Face is a government agent. The only other person at the house is the Sikh servant Ganra Singh, who lost his nose to an Afghan sword.  There's also a Ganra Singh in Skull-Face, but he's not the one here.  The descriptions and backgrounds are too different, plus the Ganra Singh in Skull-Face still has his nose intact.

Much of the conversation revolves around Sir Thomas tricking a rival, Gustavve von Honmann, with a phony map.  As a result of following the map, Von Honmann was killed by a tribe in central Africa.  According to the one porter who managed to escape, he vowed he would have revenge on Sir Thomas, from this side of the grave or the other.  Sir Thomas isn't frightened, and moves the conversation to the real reason he had asked the men to his home.

Black Gate Back Issue Sale

In honor of the new issue of Black Gate is going to press this week, and to be able to fit his car into his garage (really, I'm not making this up), Black Gate editor John O'Neill is having a back issue sale.  Both print and PDF copies are available.  If you haven't read Black Gate, now is your chance to score a few copies and see what all the buzz is about and find out what you've been missing.  Check out the details here

Monday, April 4, 2011

Home of Heroics Debuts

As I told you last night, the RBE Home of Heroics has made its debut.  The first article, by Michael Ehart, is now up.  Read it here.  It's about Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot and barnstormer.  Great post, Michael. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Not Your Daughter's Vampires

Jasper Kent
446p., $17.00

I generally avoid new offerings in the vampire genre the way vampires avoid garlic.  Not that I don't like vampires.  I kinda do.  I just don't like what Stephanie Meyers and her imitators have made of them.  Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer my undead to be evil.  They can be alluring to some of the characters because that adds to the danger and suspense in the tale, but as long term or safe romantic interests, no thanks.

I picked this book up on the basis of the cover.  It's eye catching, and the blurb about the story being set against Napoleon's invasion of Russia piqued my interest.  I was not disappointed.  This is one of the best books I've read in a while, and one of the best vampire books I've read in years.  The vampires are vile, evil, not to be trusted, and for the most part, not romantic.  They don't glitter in sunlight, they burst into flame, and they have no romantic appeal.  Just the opposite, in fact.  In other words, these are not your daughter's vampires.  These are the real thing.  So to speak.

Announcing Rogue Blades Entertainment's Home of Heroics

Hey, everybody, just a quick word to let you know that Rogue Blades Entertainment is about to launch a new feature at their website.  Tomorrow morning, April 4, at 8:00 a.m., Home of Heroics makes its debut.  This will be a page focusing on heroics in any and all forms, fictional and historical, reviews and analysis, and general discussion.  There are 26 regular contributors, posting Monday and Friday, with guest contributors posting on Wednesdays.  My column, Dispatches From the Lone Star Front, will premiere on Monday, April 25, for those of you who are interested.  Jason Waltz has assembled an impressive lineup of writers and an aggressive schedule of new content, and I'm excited and humbled to be a part of it.  Also, he's got some upgrades and changes to the RBE website that will be going live over the next week or so.  Check it all out.  You'll be glad you did.  As much variety as Jason has planned, you're sure to find a number of things that will appeal to you.