No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Five Strokes To Midnight - Tom Bombadil - Eye of the Beholder

Five Strokes to Midnight is a World Fantasy Award nominated anthology of horror/dark fiction stories by five authors: Gary A. Braunbeck & Hank Schwaeble (which duo also edited), Tom Piccirilli, Deborah LeBlanc, and Christopher Golden. Each contributed two or three stories, loosely bound to a theme particular for each author. All pretty good stuff, many with a vein of deep personal emotion -- as a robot, this is not always my thing, but here it is handled generally really well.

The book starts out strong with Piccirilli's "Loss", as some out-of-left-field fantastic elements add some mystery to the regret. Tom's second story seems overlong, but now that he himself is gone, I'll take all the words I can get.

Leblanc's Curses gives us some vivid pictures of backwoods Louisiana - voodoo and worse.

Schwaeble's "Bone Daddy" is an agreeably nasty bit of work -- Lap dances for liches never turn out well.

Golden's Folklore stories take on Lost Miners, Goat Suckers and Ghost Trains. The last of which ends with a satisfying note that helps you close the book without shuddering.


The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book collects a few of the longer verses Tolkien used in the Lord of the Rings, some related poems not in LotR, and others.

Many of them are rather somber in tone, while others are quite, well, Tom Bombadilly.

"The Mewlips" is delightfully creepy

The Shadows where the Mewlips dwell
Are dark and wet as ink,
And slow and softly rings their bell,
As in the slime you sink.

And how can I not love "Cat"?

The fat cat on the mat
   may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
   for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
   walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
   roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
   or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
   and tender men.

His love of internal rhyme is on full display here, something I often find appealing.

The art by Pauline Baynes is amusing, hearkening to medieval illustrations, but it makes for a good segue into my last little review


Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons and Dragons

This is a documentary film about the artists behind some of the iconic images of D&D. In many ways, it is exactly as nerdy as it sounds. As a documentary, it's maybe not the best, but there are some neat insights, and plenty of dragons (and dungeons) on display.

Once upon a time, a lot of fantasy art looked like Pauline Baynes work -- somewhat tame. And then Frazetta and Vallejo showed up and went bonkers. D&D artists all wanted to be Frazetta and Boris. And this is their story.

It's interesting to see some of the inside history of how TSR grew, and went from amusing (and sometimes somewhat crudely executed) B&W images done on the cheap, and quickly turned into big colorful professional works. And then (to my eye) it drifted into something very 'corporate'. Alas, I think this final phase has, as the film I think correctly points out, informed a lot of current fantasy art (from novels to film to videogames to everything) making it derivative of a particular TSR corporate look. I mean it's commercial art, so it is what it is. And the stuff I'm nostalgic for was commercial art as well. But that original Players Handbook cover, which is rightly lauded in the documentary, just sets you thinking in exactly the right way to explain the game.

What just happened? Who are these people? What are they doing? Some people are doing this, and other people are doing that, and then there's those people over there --  what is going on? Did the lizard things live here and worship here? What's going to happen when they pop that jewel out? What will they do then?

Tags: art, book, death, film, game, horror, lotr, lovecraft, nostalgia, poetry, rpg, tolkien

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