Category Archives: authors

Addendum to Prior Post and more IT

Despite my prior post denigrating much of the 20th century literature, I must say that there is much that I did like. This didn’t really occur to me until further into the day after my doses of caffeine started to kick in. But most of what I did like was the second half of the twentieth century, the first half I still regard as pretty sad.

As a lifelong bibliophile who goes through books like Michael Moore goes through buckets of KFC, I simply forget a lot of what I have read. Because even more than the stories themselves, with exceptions, I enjoy reading as an activity.

I dislike intensely the icons of the early and mid twentieth century. Hemingway bores me to tears, as does Steinbeck and Lewis – Sinclair, not C.S. Even Ayn Rand (who I was an ardent fan of for years) is of this strict realism school. Her saving grace from the world of boredom was her attempt to produce the ideal man – indeed The Ideal.

So I did like Rand, and I still think that The Fountainhead was an excellently written book even if full of some heinous ideas (and some good ones). So there is her. And I like Flannery O’Connor. I remember liking Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer quite a lot. That book, however, was not full of your run o’ the mill characters, nor was the plot. There was some Australian author who I liked also from the mid 20th century whose name escapes me at the moment. I liked Margret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I am sure there are others I am failing to drudge up.

But there was little that compared to 19th century literature. Much like painting and art in general, it just wasn’t as good. No one compared to Hugo and Dostoyevsky, nor Dickens or Austen. It is like van Gogh to Caravaggio – I mean, come on.

For the most part. But I am of the opinion that the twentieth century belonged to the genres. That is where the imagination, the speculation, went to live. And I got more reflection out of Frederik Pohl’s The World at the End of Time than in most anything else of the twentieth century literature I read.

That said.

I will sometimes scan reviews of books I am about to read or am in the middle of reading for curiosity at times. And I did that with Stephen King’s IT. Five star reviews I never read, what one loves another can hate. I always go for the one star reviews.

Among the complaints is that it is too long and that King goes into too much detail. It is a 1200 or so page book and at page 133, he is not yet done introducing the cast of characters. Not that there are an overwhelming number of them, nor is the character sketches entirely deep, but King likes to put a lot of concrete detail about one’s youth, family, childhood traumas, and what is in one’s medicine cabinet (not the most telling detail, but it can tell something, no?). It took about twenty pages to get done introducing one character only to have him slit his wrists in the tub upon receiving the phone call. Bye bye.

Now despite this it is Stephen King, people. He is my guilty pleasure read because I like horror and you can slam through one of his books (no matter the size) pretty quickly. After reading some esoteric chapter on ancient Jewish conceptions of the afterlife, or trying to figure out some Lafferty story I just read, King is a relaxation. And he has a way of connecting with a reader that almost never fails. They are usually through common human bonds that only a misanthrope would fail to register. I mean his book Christine (and for that matter, The Tommyknockers) is about friendship not really about some demonically possessed car.

But I cannot believe some people simper that the book is too long and King doesn’t “get to the point.” These kids (and I suppose they must be of the iPhone generation) would never be able to read, for instance, the unabridged Les Miserables. I think, if memory serves, there is even a thirty-some page description on glass manufacturing in it that has no bearing on the story itself. I think there were quite a few asides in there like that that I skipped over after awhile. Or the two and a half page paragraph, or seventeen pages of description (talking of books in general back then) with absolutely no dialogue.

They couldn’t do it. Could they keep reading long enough for Raskolnikov to commit his heinous crime? Or how about all that book that comes after? How boring! Oh shit, How about The Idiot? What the hell is that about when you are on page fifty? Anybody?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace? They would glaze over by page six, “Oh dear God! Will a Transformer please show up or something! I’m so bored right now!”

If Stephen King is too long and plodding for you, put down the book, go watch the movie. Leave the reading to the readers.


2017 Hugo Award Finalists

TOR has up the list of 2017 Hugo finalists. Stranger Things is definitely my choice in the Best Dramatic Presentation category. Good storytelling, classic style science fiction, little 80’s injection and a little X-Files. What’s not to love?

The boldest entry by far is ALIEN STRIPPER BONED FROM BEHIND BY THE T-REX by Stix Hiscock.

I need a screen guard for my computer as I had a mouthful of coffee when I was reading this list and came to this title. This is much more brave and daring than last year’s SPACE RAPTOR BUTT INVASION by Dr. CHUCK TINGLE.

It is further play upon the Hugo nomination (and win? I can’t remember) of IF YOU WERE A DINOSAUR, MY LOVE by Rachel somebody or other a few years ago. A nomination (or win? can’t remember) that was wholly undeserved. By its nomination practically anything qualified to be nominated. And ALIEN STRIPPER BONED FROM BEHIND BY THE T-REX by Stix Hiscock is living proof!

I fear that by next year IF YOU WERE A DINOSAUR, MY LOVE by Rachel Swirsky will be too far in the past and a newer title should be played upon. I personally like my idea of playing on John Scalzi’s newest, THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE. Mine would be THE COLLAPSING COLON by PETER POLYP.

However, I have no idea of the quality of Scalzi’s novel, so I can’t in justice mock it.

Comment #15 in the comments section below on the TOR finalist link shows just what is wrong with a vast number of people in the field. I’ll reproduce the comment below.

Just realized:

Best Novel – One male, one transgender, and four female authors. That’s impressive!

Why is that impressive? According to this person the goal of the Hugo award is not to represent the best that the field has to offer in a single year, but the widest cross-section of possible “genders” “sexual orientations” and races.


That sentiment is a sweltering heap of shit. I personally don’t care if every single nominee every single year was a regular at a San Fransisco bathhouse as long as the stories were the best stories out there. As an honest patron of all things science fiction and fantasy (and of anything else for that matter) I don’t care two donkey shitz about the author I read. I don’t care if you are male, female, gay, have an attraction to used jogger’s socks. I care about the story. If that resulted in year after year of all white males winning, so be it. If it resulted in all black females winning year after year, so be it. To actually know whether an author I am reading was once a man and is now a woman, is a level of detail that I am likely not to find out on my own.

That comment above is a declaration that the person is not interested in science fiction or fantasy, but in political ends. That person is not interested in the best story. What is impressive about one male, one transgender, and four female authors? What is inherent in that in relation to the quality of the stories? Can I judge, at all, the quality of the works from this sort of consensus line-up? What if they were all white males?

No! This is pure drivel. These are the same biased douchebags that get all in a snit if there are too many white males (or just males) in a category. How do you know that is a bad thing? Since there is no correlation between the sex of the author, orientation of the author, or the race of the author and the quality of a work, then it is simply racism, sexism, orientationalism, transgenderism – i.e., biased political correctness.


The Christian online (online?) magazine FIRST THINGS, talks PAST MASTER, and DEAD LADY OF CLOWN TOWN, MANSIONS IN SPACE, and a few others.

Hey, they got the essential theme right!

New Acquisitions in Fantasy

I found a good source for widening my fantasy reading experience. I hope. I haven’t read very much in fantasy as compared to science fiction. I feel that this is because while science fiction had many influences (including fantasy itself) a lot of fantasy is occupied by derivatives of Tolkein’s works. Current releases probably mirror George RR Martin’s work which is really just a nihilistic, modern take on conventional fantasy. In fact, I was in the science fiction/fantasy isle lat month and saw two such titles by different authors that began like “A Game of…” “A Dance of…”, much like in the late 90’s and early 2000’s you ran across YA books like “Charlie Bone and the….” Derivative.

The source for widening my fantasy experience is Lin Carter’s Ballentine Adult Fantasy series from the 60’s and 70’s (note – many of the works in the series predate the 60’s and 70’s by several or more decades, many being rereleases). Hat tip (yet again) to Mr. John C. Wright for bringing this series to my attention.

Right now I have about 50 pages of Peter S/ Beagle’s THE LAST UNICORN left and then Michael Moorcock’s STORMBRINGER. Then I think I may rip through these and then tackle R.A. Lafferty’s PAST MASTER again.

Happy Reading everyone!

Going for Easy, Maybe Going for Stupid

I am almost two and a half months into reading Lafferty’s Argo tales. I am near the end of Argo itself, and then there are the related items, some shorter works centered around the main books.

I’m beat. My next several reads are going to be easy. I have the next three lined up: STORMBRINGER by Michael Moorcock, YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME by Cordwainer Smith, THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle. John C. Wright’s THE VINDICATION OF MAN will have to wait until the late spring. I can’t follow up a Lafferty read of this length with his stuff, I need a break!

I always go into a first Lafferty read knowing that I will probably be rereading it – especially the novels. So I don’t try to pick up every nuance on the first outing. I don’t make it an aim to seek out all etymological word plays (and he has a lot of them) or to tie in all references to theme, etc, etc. I do some, but I like to get a view of the forest on my first pass.

For instance, the first time I read Past Master (2012? 13?) there is a scene where More is at Mass on Golden Astrobe. The scene is bizarre, there are commercial advertisements, I believe the wine is some sudsy popular drink, a sign says something like these crispy sweet wafers brought to by! Such scenes passed me by in the first round as being just plain hilarious and bizarre fun. I didn’t realize at the time that it was also commentary by Lafferty against, or caricature of, Vatican II, which he opposed.

Anyway, going for easy for the next several rounds.

Reading the ARGO series has got me interested in fantasy in a way that I haven’t been… ever? Let me make a confession – this may be hard for some of you to hear – Tolkien bores me. Now, it may not be Tolkien himself, but the endless repetition of his work over the last several decades whereby if I see a knight on a horse (or a magical kingdom that needs to be saved) I am hitting the snooze button.

The ARGO series can only be classified, if we must choose a classification, as fantasy, perhaps, it may turn out, classifiable as a ghost story. It is a wholly different fantasy than I have read before. And there was fantasy before Tolkien. Eddison’s excellent The Worm Ourboros to name but one. So I am open to trying some more fantasy in the months to come.


The last was for protesting the first deletion (which committed WRONGTHINK) and, therefore, was not on topic.

What a dick! (Just like I had heard he was.)


I know I said in my last post that I wasn’t spending any time on the man. But then he deleted my only comment I ever left on his site (on a post ironically titled “On the Matter of Empathy For Horrible People”). Cool! He is pretty well known for that. It’s like being insulted by Alec Baldwin or something. You know his shitty personality will come out at the slightest provocation.

I remember I used to get in bear-claw slashing arguments with John C. Wright years ago. I’d even provoke him and brag with a swagger that I really knew how to get his beard in a lather and such and so on. But never once did the man delete a comment of mine. He even had an avowed Satanist trolling for awhile there bragging about the coming Ubermensch, not one comment deleted. Mr. Wright has an actual list of what is not tolerated on his site. Mr. Scalzi’s, it is clear, is his whim and disagreeing with him.

My comment got deleted because I brought up Samuel Delany and George Takei in relation to the whole Milo Yiannopoulos fake controversy. He claimed it was because I started my comment with “Who cares?” Which would be a valid reason if that was all there was. And if it had been followed by “VIEWS APPROVED BY GATE-MASTER SCALZI” it would have stood even if I had started it with – EXPLICATIVE FOLLOWS – “Who gives a goddamned fucking shit, dude?” All that would be required is APPROVED THOUGHTS. That is why that place seemed like such a butt sniffing echo-chamber.

I really dislike him personally. What a piece of shit. And I say that even though deleting my comment brought me glee.

I’ll go back to talking about real writers from now on, like Lafferty.



SPOILERS! [Although I will try to make it not so]

I am in Tales of Midnight of the More Than Melchisedech entry of the ARGO series by R.A. Lafferty. There is a moment where they are discussing the death of one of their own, and one of the characters is foretelling of his own demise at the hands of an enemy and the fact that the death will be attributed, falsely, to his liver.

Before I go into the scene. One of the reasons I love this scene so much is it could happen – does happen – at any moment in my own living room (I don’t technically own a banjo, but I do possess a banjolele (also known as a banjo uke)


or at the bar, or in the grocery store.

Anyway, here is the scene (most of it, anyway, I won’t give out the entire song)

“I’ll be killed by them myself,” Bagby said, “and yet my death will be attributed to my liver, a gentle organ that never harmed anybody.”

“How is your liver really, Bag?” Duffey asked him.

“Oh tell us how’s your liver, Mr. B.,” Dotty sang.

“I believe that, with a little help from some of my creations, we could make a song out of that,” Duffey proposed. Mary Virginia Schaffer went to the piano (this was in ‘Trashman’s Girl-a-Rama‘) and several of them hammered out the song then. More songs have been born in Trashman’s than in any place in the block. Duffey accompanied them on a house banjo (he hadn’t his own banjo with him) and all of the unofficial members of the Pelican Glee Club sang thus:

“Is it true you have abused it?                                                                                                                Have you battered it and boozed it?                                                                                                       Are you sorry you misused it                                                                                                            Horribly?                                                                                                                                                        Does it need the Great Forgiver?                                                                                                                  Is it feeling sensitiver?                                                                                                                                    Is it shrunken to a sliver?                                                                                                                               Oh tell us how’s your liver,                                                                                                                          Mr. B.”

I love how a deadly serious discussion segues into a number at the drop of a hat. It is loony!  There are dozens of these unexpected turns in any Lafferty story, but some just stand out.

Sometimes he slips you right into an alternate reality where the world has become a comic strip or cartoon.

[I don’t know why the text for the lyrics came out the way they did. I was trying to get the lines to be single spaced which the editor doesn’t let you do. So I spent several minutes hitting the space bar to get the lines single spaced and now it comes up all mish-mashed. It appears normal when I re-open it in the editor so it will have to stay as is. Sorry!]


My Lafferty Shelf

I took me a while because I had to be talked out of removing the books from the plastic. But here they are in their bookness doing what books do while they are not being read, talking amongst themselves waiting to be read. Actually I am fitting in stories from Does Anyone Else have Something Further to Add? at the end of my study day. I have read a number of them before, but that is no reason not to read them again, silly. And this time it will be from a themed book!


And yes, that is also a crucifix on the top shelf and on the bottom shelf a picture of the me (when I had hair… miss the hair sometimes…) and the missus from 23 years ago. Also on the bottom shelf is Thomas A Kempis’ My Imitation of Christ.

These things are not out of place on a Lafferty shelf.

There is some overlap in this collection. I have three Past Masters, two Aurelia, two Serpent’s Eggs and a few others. None of the real rarities overlap though.

I also have back East of Laughter which I had gifted to author John C. Wright a year or two ago. I regretted that because I grew to be such a Lafferty fan.

I’ve been thinking about starting a spin off blog from this one where I do commentaries on Lafferty stories. I am just not sure I can do the work justice (or pull off intelligence) given my present schedule.

For instance, last night after pumping in eight hours of study that took fourteen hours to finish (the day’s normal demands plus school demands = more time than you’ve got) I reread About a Secret Crocodile. There is something very representative in this story. It is Lafferty’s ability to perform modern surrealist (surrealist is sometimes too light a word, is it not?) fantasy with subtle and obvious humor while making poignant arguments or observations about our world and our time. About a Secret Crocodile is certainly that kind of story.

Of the surrealist element… I think if a film adaptation of one of Lafferty’s works were ever made, only animation (and creative animation at that) could do it justice. Perhaps the French could pull it off or Terry Gilliam…

I remember in my Randroid days we would find inexhaustible conversation time discussing who would play what part, or who would direct a film version of Atlas Shrugged. Suffice it to say we were all wrong when the hilariously bad adaptation did see the light of day! But I think that would be even more fun with Lafferty. Who could direct Fourth Mansions? What screenwriter could transfer that to an intelligible script? Most fans find it rough to penetrate.

What the hell was I talking about?

Anyway, I have to study. See? No justice to the material.

Just a few more months…

Have I not said that before?

Lafferty Collection

I did a major upgrade to my R.A. Lafferty collection last week. And, unfortunately, probably the last for awhile. Now I have to get a job! I have nearly everything that is currently out there to be had.


I’ve known for some time that Lafferty, later in his career, languished in the smallest of the small presses. But upon getting some of the smaller small press works it made me a little angry that he had to suffer that fate. I do not really know how he saw it. But the way I look at it is I see the mountains of shit that makes up “literature” and science fiction and he is relegated to obscurity because it was not what everyone else is writing.

That is one way I look at it at least.

Ah, yes, it is easy to uphold a neglected genius and to throw my feces at James Patterson. But throw I shall. MAD MONKEY ME! MAKE BOOM BOOM! One could say that it easily butters the soft side of one’s ego, but being a Lafferty fan is hard work. If ease of comprehension is a virtue, Lafferty was a most wicked man. And maybe he was in the good way some wicked people are.

I just wanted to drop a tear when I saw some of his later work look like it was typewritten and stapled in someone’s garage. That is no loggerhead to the fine gentlemen that likely made nothing publishing him when no one else would. I read in one of the introductions to one of my new acquisitions (I think it was Michael Swanwick in Iron Tears) that the big houses wouldn’t publish him in the end because there was no money in it.

It is contemplating such stark realities that makes me wonder whether all our freedom isn’t a road to hell. There’s no money in it. I used to study economics – I agree with what used to be called the Austrian School. There are laws of economics as unflappable and sure as any in the halls of physics. And don’t let your local palm greasers sell you any other brand of soap. I get it. But for Random House (or fill in your big man) to let one of our most gifted authors just whither into obscurity because “there’s no money in it.”

Who did it? That is the question that sets the wrench free. People have pointed to the capitalists before (for I am not near the first person to pose the question) that they cater to an ever lowering bar. I don’t believe such answers are holistic enough.

All sufficient answers are wholly holistic. Or, as Hegel (who I dated in an earlier incarnation of myself, btw) said:

The true is the Whole.

Just as long as we understand that is probably the only true thing Hegel ever said!

Maybe we really are in the Day After the World Ended as Lafferty said. Although he said that in 1979, so it’s now several days after the world ended. If you’re not familiar with the concept (and why would most of you be, it is an obscure concept) I will be covering it at some future date. I agree quite a lot with his position that the world ended sometime in the 20th century. I also love the idea like an adopted child because it is an idea (or a finding) that I had not the slightest inkling of before he told it to me. Usually I have to go to the Bible for such things.

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Holy crap, it is past midnight! I never stay up this late anymore.

One more pic!