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Journal of No. 118

November 27th, 2015

The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal / Address: Centauri @ 09:44 am

The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal, by David Barker and Wilum Pugmire is a sequel and/or analogue of "The Thing on the Doorstep". Set in the modern day, the story revolves around the occult descendants of Asenath's coterie of diabolists. There are some enjoyable elements, but the novella is a bit uneven, I (perhaps unfairly) hypothesize because of a mismatch between the co-authors and the story. There are some delicious passages of fin de siècle decadence, but they are out of place when juxtaposed with cell phones and almond lattes. And if Lovecraft's protagonists are way too apt to fall into a faint, the narrator here is curiously blasé about the contraventions of the natural laws of the universe that go on around him. But still much to like, including Erin Wells' evocative interior art.

In contrast, there is little to like at all about Address: Centauri, by F L Wallace. I only hope I can ebay this Gnome Press edition to turn a literary failure into a financial success (for me). Perhaps I was too influenced by Boucher's review quoted on the Wiki page: "pretty lifeless fiction, in which both prose and characterization emerge directly from the machine, untouched by human hands." But I read 20 pages, skimmed 20 more, and then gave up. Definitely a strange idea -- in a future where medicine has eradicated all disease, and mankind is all beautiful and smart and able-bodied, there is an asteroid, nicknamed Handicap Haven, where the most severe 'accidentals' are kept, more or less humanely. Bodies so transformed by accidents (since disease is nonexistent) that even super-medicine can't completely fix them. So by hook or crook, a motley band of 'disabled' people break out. On paper, I can almost make it exciting and socially relevant. But it just isn't, as far as I can tell with as far as I got.

In some way, it does bring to mind a certain historical mindset. The book is from 1955, before the space program, but I think there was already this idea that we were going to send our best and brightest into the test jets and rocketships. And then there is a definite echo of that as well in PKD, say in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, where the best and brightest go to the offworld colonies to be saved, and the detritus left on a radioactive earth all look like Edward James Olmos.

November 21st, 2015

Who Goes There? / The Dolphins' Bell / Dunsany @ 04:50 pm

A couple scores from that estate sale the other week.

Who Goes There? is a collection of John Campbell stories (alas I don't have the dust jacket) from Shasta Press, one of the many boutique SF presses that sprouted up in the shadow of Arkham House, but didn't stay the course as well.

The titular story is notable, as it provides the bridge that connects Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" to John Carpenter's The Thing. Carpenter's film hews close enough to it that it's hard for me not to see the film in my eyes. Spoiler Alert! As in the film, Blair figures things out and decides to protect the world by destroying the magnetos in the airplanes. The film maybe has a stronger angle in that Blair is alone in his self-sacrifice. But the book's take is also interesting. One of the pilots goes out and comes back and says something along the lines of, "I didn't trust a biologist to do it right, so I destroyed the spares." Fatalistic Depression Era fucks!

All fairly good stories, though creaky with age, and a certain amount of "I, a man, must solve this problem with my man brain and my man science." Although the revelation and denouement is a little unbelievable, I did like the feel and mood of the first three quarters of "Dead Knowledge". As a spoileriffic (and less positive) link has it: "Three human star travelers have arrived at a new world 27 light years from earth, only to find that it once harbored intelligent, highly developed, humanoid civilization that is now dead. And, curiously, it's long dead residents have their bodies well preserved & they all apparently committed suicide!!"

The eerie sense of a dead world comes across nicely in Campbell's prose.

The Dolphins' Bell, by Anne McCaffrey

Set on Pern in the early days of human colonization, this short story tells of the evacuation of the Southern Continent, as dolphineers communicate with their dolphins to transport some of the material across the sea. And there's a love story. Um, between humans. It's sort of a by-the-numbers competent infilling of a lacuna in Pern history.

But the book itself is a lovely affair, published by Wildside Press with full art borders, and a couple full page illos by Pat Morrissey. Signed by McCaffrey. #386/400.

So.... it may be off to ebay with this one. Fortunately, I still have the signed Dragonsinger that I got at WorldCon, passing through a gauntlet of chaff from Prime and others.

In other news, I also won a nice auction of three Dunsany books from the 1920s. A first of Chronicles of Rodriguez, and reprints of The King of Elfland's Daughter, and Time and the Gods, all by Putnam in signed numbered editions (signed by both the Baron and Sidney Sime). It looks like all ten plates (and frontispiece) in Time and the Gods are signed by Sime.


November 14th, 2015

Prognostication @ 08:30 am

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They said that Einstein's curved space theory was wrong, and it was the ten-dimensional multiple theory that was right.

John W. Campbell, "Elimination" (1936)

November 12th, 2015

Crazy books @ 07:33 pm

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Swann's auction catalog of Art, Press, & Illustrated books has some pretty unique things.

A curious edition of Flatland, published by the Arion Press, with an introduction by Ray Bradbury. It's printed on 56 accordion folded pages (so you can lay out the whole text... flat) and housed in an aluminum case.

If that's not wacky enough... The Robin Book:

If that's not pretty enough, then how about the Kelmscott Press (William Morris) Works of Chaucer:

If that's not racy enough, imagine having to compose a properly dry auction catalog entry for this:

"An unusual, unexpected, and very erotically graphic publication that touches on all manner of taboos and the employment of otherwise innocent items like pickles."

November 8th, 2015

From the pulps @ 02:31 pm

A few images from the pulps I picked up at an estate sale.

Listerine to guard against Infection Dandruff!

November 2nd, 2015

Felicia, by George Alec Effinger @ 04:18 pm


Felicia is a Southern-fried not very-thriller. Great bayou location and ambience. Boring, stupid thugs planning a heist. Boring, feckless locals indulging in ennui and adultery. Then at least a hurricane comes and smooshes them all. Slightly interesting in the context of Katrina... The book, written in 1976, harks back to Hurricane Audrey in 1957, which killed 400+ people, and simultaneously captures the knowledge that a major hurricane hitting Louisiana is going to be really bad, and the knowledge that a lot of people will make bad decisions.

October 23rd, 2015

Dead but Dreaming, edited by Kevin Ross & Keith Herber @ 03:21 pm

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Travelling back in time, as usual. I read Dead But Dreaming 2 a few years ago, and now am getting around to the original (or at least the Miskatonic River Press reissue of the original).

This anthology is a worthy antecedent to DBD2, with a nice variety of generally good Lovecraftian stories. There are maybe more meh ones in the bunch (than DBD2), but still not much in the way of stinkeroos. Standouts for me include "The Disciple" by David Barr Kirtley, and Ramsey's Campbell's "The Other Names".

October 12th, 2015

Ancient Images, by Ramsey Campbell / Skin Job, by Evan J. Peterson @ 03:28 pm

Ancient Images starts off promisingly: A film editor tracking down a lost film with Karloff and Lugosi winds up dying mysteriously, and his colleague takes up the charge to find the film and silence the critics who say it never existed. Details emerge... a troubled set... a dead director... powerful figures try to suppress the film both when it was made, and now that new efforts are being made to uncover it. Then it veers off into 'Wicker Man'-esque territory, along with an additional quasi-Irish Traveller or Romany caravan element. The main spooks are seen-out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye types that seem to be endlessly dogging the steps of our main characters, but don't do anything other than make tiny noises and appear in the corners of people's eyes, at least until we get deep into the not very climactic climax.

I was surprised to see that Wiki page for Ramsey lists it as winning the Bram Stoker. So much so that I checked the listing for the Bram Stokers and didn't see it there. Left a note on the Wiki talk.

Skin Job collects a couple dozen poems that riff off films and film-making, or delve into anatomical and medical fixations. Some good stuff here: curious turns of phrase and trails of thought. To tie my two tales together:

Bad timing runs in the family. Karloff
does his best with rotten lines.

From "Made for T.V." (anent Frankenstein 1970, which might be better lost than found.)

October 8th, 2015

My oath binds me to observe the Constitution as it is, not as I would have it @ 04:27 pm

I got an auction catalog of autographs, and was struck by the content of this letter from Jefferson Davis.

Unlike the US Constitution, the Confederate constitution mentions "Almighty God" in the preamble. Otherwise, it hews close to the US constitution in many places, including the 'no religious test' clause and essentially the First Amendment.

Anyway, to provide the rest of the background, some were giving Davis some grief for not referring specifically to Jesus in certain proclamations. And there was some widespread sentiment that this was because Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin was a Jew. Two of these angry letters are also part of the lot: "Alas! that Jefferson Davis should fear a Jew more than he honors Jesus! . . . Sir you are . . . doing a gross wrong to a Christian people: above all insulting God by the Judaising [sic] of your very proclamation . . . to please a Godless & prayerless Sect'y of State!"

Anyway, Jeff's response:

"Many well-disposed persons do not understand the constitutional restriction upon my conduct... It might have been well that our Constitution should not only have recognized a God, as it does, but the Saviour of mankind also; that it should have had not merely a religious but a Christian basis. But such is not its character, and my oath binds me to observe the Constitution as it is, not as I would have it, if in any respect I should wish it changed."

A weak leader and rebel scum, but clear on constitutional principles.

Axolotol Special #1 / The Jennifer Morgue @ 03:43 pm

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The Axolotl Special is a slim volume of three short stories by different authors, prefaced by introduction by three different authors.

I'm pretty sure I've read Lucius Shepard's "Aymara" before, but it's still a great time travel story, and the star of this collection. John Kessel provides the most cogent intro. Michael Shea's "Fill it with Regular" takes on an interesting end of the world scenario, but the humorous take doesn't quite work for me. Bruce Sterling provides the intro. Jessica Amanda Salmonson's "The Revelations and Pursuits of Timith, Son of Timith" has some nice Dunsanian touches here and there, but wears out its welcome a bit. Tom Ligotti has interesting things to say about the hero in fantasy literature, but little to say about JAS' story. It's pretty sweet to have it signed by all participants.

The Jennifer Morgue is one of Charlie Stross' Laundry Files books, the series about spies that deal with Lovecraft-ish-oid things that got started with the Atrocity Archives. Jennifer Morgue is Stross' nod toward the James Bond franchise, and there are amusing details throughout for lovers of Bond. But the story stands pretty well on its own.

Thanks to my trip to the HPLFF, this one is also signed.

Journal of No. 118