Category Archives: Writers

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

Most people know Robert E.Howard as the guy who wrote the Conan stories. Most people have only seen the Conan movie. I hadn’t read anything by the man (at least I can’t remember reading him growing up). So I thought I would read some of his horror stories as I am a horror fan.

I have only read two stories and a poem in it so far. But so far I like it. There is definite Lovecraft-like feel to the material, but I think more substance. He has that knack for creating imagery like Poe. Take this narrative example.

Look, Messieurs, I draw a map on the table, thus, with finger dipped in wine.

Such a simple sentence and such a stark image. One needn’t the room the person, nor anything else, althought that is already there. This single sentence forms a lasting image brilliant in its simplicity.

This will be fun times!

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GREAT LAFFERTY MOMENT

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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)

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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!]

 


Placemarker for, hopefully, Future Posts

As often happens when I am neck deep in schoolwork and I post that I will not be able to post, things come up that I really feel an urge to discuss.

One such is the Hugo award for short story going to Cat Pictures Please – it is kind of hard to believe there isn’t a destructive element, a ruling element, out there when pieces like this are awarded as the best science fiction has to offer.

I hope to have more to say about it if I can later. Suffice it to say that if this is the best (or even the most popular) that science fiction has to offer now, science fiction is dead. Or at least in its death throes.

We merely have to determine if her death is from natural causes or homicide. I’m leaning towards murder.

Anyone remember the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes – or You Better Not Let ol’ Joe Stalin See You Stop Applauding First? They raise the unexceptional (or even completely outside the category) and you are expected to clap. Applause and praise for the unworthy will identify you as in the group and your duties are dispatched to you. Silence will let you roam the room for a time – but there will come a time when ol’ Joe is eyeing you… To call the sham for what it is is to be branded as outside the group, and to be submitted to the hate, to be non-Fan.

Mr. I can’t finish my series Martin last year even prescribed personality traits that a TruFan should have. He thereby threw Harlan Ellison clear outside of “fandom”. Actually threw anyone out who hasn’t conformed to the New Rulers that took over almost completely about ten years ago.

My favorite author, R.A. Lafferty, saw these people coming decades ago. But no one wanted to listen to a crazy old Catholic man.

They’re here!

I thought this was supposed to be a future post? Ah, it got away from me.

The other is I’d like to explore (from a time that science fiction awarded – at least in the short story realm – excellence and not rambling blog posts of little worth as blog posts) the theme of science fiction’s oft-overlooked treasure.

Science fiction can boast as having within her history two of the best American short stories writers. Yes two. I have another favorite author as well (he comes in the top 5 at least). I can only think of one thing these two men had in common, and that was their command of the short story. Particularly the sleight of hand, the magician’s trick, the short story with the twist.

These two authors were R.A. Lafferty and Fredric Brown. If you have never heard of the first, welcome to my blog; if not the second, you will know him as the writer of the Star Trek episode Arena (and several Hitchcock hour episodes as well). If you do not know the Star Trek episode Arena – I’m sorry you ended up at the wrong website.

I’ve talked little of Fredric Brown here. While he was a master of the short story (and the unparalleled master of the short-short story) his work was usually not very deep, many times there wasn’t much beyond the gimmick. But they were mostly fun stories that were pleasurable in their own right and showed a deft skill of execution. Their lightness had a cause. Fredric Brown was actually a mystery writer (of which he is more famous for usually – see The Fabulous Clip Joint or The Screaming Mimi) who did science fiction on the side while he was idle on the mysteries.

Again, future reference.


Next Centipede Edition of Lafferty Up at Amazon

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First observation is they are getting a little obscure with the introductions. I, at least, have never heard of Richard A. Lupoff. I’m not sure that is just me though. Everyone has heard of Harlan Ellison or Gene Wolfe. Too early for the story list, but I’m sure they’ll add it at some point. I didn’t check Centipede Press as I was stopping by Amazon to order yet another book for my medical coding classes (shit is going to break me, I haven’t written in sixteen months – sixteen months! I long for the days of frantic procrastination and creative loitering (wink). Better that a wannabe writer sits there and wastes his life away in daydreams than to be just fingers grasp away from the object of his desire.)

Anyway, it is still nine months away, but I am looking forward to another installment!

 


Drood

Drood by Dan Simmons

This is not a review because I have not read it. I was doing my monthly trip to Half-Priced Books and ran across this tome. I loved Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos series. So after an hour of browsing and coming up empty I was heading for the door when I passed this:

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I had to have it. First, it is obvious what the reference is with the misty image of the man in the top hat and the name Drood. It had something to do with Charles Dicken’s last, unfinished, work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Knowing a little of Dicken’s life and the fact that it is told by Dan Simmons, how could you not buy it?

Coming in at 771 pages, it will be the longest book I have read in quite some time. I can’t even remember the last one that clocked in over 500. Although if I consider science fiction trilogies (which are really 900 page books broken into pieces for marketability) then I read such lengths all the time. If I consider that many novels I’ve read over the years are six part series, then I read 1500 to 2100 page novels all the time.

I also want to read Simmons’ Carrion Comfort  which I have seen make it onto many a top horror novels of all-time lists and Stephen King listed it as one of the great horror novels of the 20th century (or so I’ve heard). I haven’t sunk my teeth into a new horror in quite some time.

One thing you’ll notice if you look up some of Simmons’ work is the one star reviews. Nearly every one of which decries the length of the work in question. Sometimes a book is too long, just like a movie that just doesn’t end when it should. But I get the impression that many of these complaints are not due to the author being long winded, but to the readers being a little too modern. There is something to be said for a work that goes for longer than 500 pages. There is a further immersion into that world. You stay just a little longer. If it is done right, you partly live in that world for a time while walking around in the regular one.

Regular one. Heh, and how regular is that?


The Strangely Evolving Library

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The above is not a picture of my library. Mine is spread out to every corner of my house, with the main concentration in the office/jam room (and even that is spread out) and includes an equally extensive digital library. I’ve been trying to split the difference between hardcopy and digital because when all you do is read, moving becomes a real bitch.

My library looks nothing like it did 5 years ago. Gone are all the Ayn Rand books. And most of the books on economics and government. I don’t pursue arguing those subjects any longer. And the two subjects are like geometry, once you know them, you know them and they ain’t going to change.

And in came C.S. Lewis and my quite extensive Catholic collection. Have I ever bragged how big that collection is? It is over three hundred volumes at least. It might be over four hundred. Not to forget my growing Bible collection. I like me some good Bibles. However my collection of that will be very little Catholic in the end. The poor souls don’t have a good rendering. They have translated it into the flatness of modernity.

I’m looking for a good leather copy of the King James version with apocrypha. I think I might get the 1611 edition – go real old school.

And of course during the last five years I started another collection as I discovered my favorite author R.A. Lafferty. I never really had a favorite author before that (maybe Stephen King as a kid). Rand never really counted as she was dead and her fiction output was quite small. And she had that mid-20th century lack of color and word play that you find in such authors as Steinbeck or Hemingway or Sinclair. That bare-bones matter of fact Americana.

Lafferty didn’t push anyone out, but he certainly added color to that shelf!

And now I’m noticing, because I’m in school that the shelves are evolving again. Anytime I’ve been in school (and I have been in one form or another off and on forever) I have never stuck with only the material provided in the class. It is like only getting your news from FOX if you’re conservative or MSNBC if you’re liberal although much more innocent.

My course only consists of two medical books for: Medical Terminology, Pathophysiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology. The books they sent although I’m sure are good enough to cut the mustard, just leave more questions than they do answers. So, from those two books I’ve added Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, McGraw Human Anatomy 3rd edition, and Human Anatomy and Physiology. That’s an additional four thousand pages, mate! I think I’ll have to update my DSM as it is the 4th edition and they are up to 5.

The two Anatomy books may sound like a redundancy, but remember what I told about news sources. The principle works just as well with cut and dry presentation of facts.

I just wish I found medical stuff more interesting. It is not a subject that gets me excited. It is interesting as most things that are not sports are, but it is not philosophy nor theology, son.


New Releases

Since I am unable to read fiction at the moment, see post below, (and it is freaking killing me!!!) I thought I would at least give a heads up on a couple of releases that I find noteworthy.

First up is John C. Wright’s new installment to his ‘Count to the Eschaton’ Sequence. It is the fourth book, so if you haven’t read any of them, this is not the place to start. I haven’t read it so I can’t specifically recommend it, but I can go on his excellent prior material and recommend this.

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Next up is one I commented on in January, but it bares repeating. There is not even a review of it on Amazon yet! And that is the latest volume of Lafferty Short stories, The Man with the Aura.

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I really, really really wish I could dig into this RIGHT NOW!

And last but not least is a sort of Lafferty Fanzine called Feast of Laughter, apparently they are on volume two. I will certainly be picking these two up. I can’t say that I recommend it (although two of the authors I know to be quite knowledgeable of all things Lafferty) because I just discovered it. But if you are a fan of Lafferty (and ya better be, friend) this should be at the least a curiosity. I’m certainly interested.

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Having fun with The Storymatic

As I explained in this post last month I bought a fun little package at the store called The Storymatic. Basically it is a giant deck of cards in a box with gold cards for characters and copper cards for situations or story droplets as it were. What I have been doing is drawing 2 gold cards and 2 copper cards and just going with it.

The first set I drew was:

Carnival worker, phone call at 3am, six months to live, discovery of a new species.

I got nowhere with that, not even a sentence. If anyone wants to have a go at it… start now! I’ve got the four items in the back of my mind, and maybe someday… Outside of making it an X-Files story (literally) it just produces nothing.

I did a few others that resulted in meh.

Then Sunday I drew the following cards:

  1. Secret meeting
  2. If only what was said could be taken back
  3. Aging Clown
  4. Person who steals cats

At first this seemed to me as incongruous as the first set. I give myself a few minutes before jumping in but not too many minutes. But clowns and secret meetings have been two elements of a novel I have been VERY SLOWLY working on for – shit- five years now? Basically think of the end of days, end of time and the universe, Future Man’s last stand, and armies of life hating clowns. I even have a side piece called Clown and Eve (think Rebirth of the World, but this time it gets off to an even worse start!), it exists (for now) only in my head, but it’s pretty messed up stuff.

Anyway, this had enough familiarity for my natural output. I didn’t hit all the points on the list, but I hardly think that is the point. Unless, of course, you were doing it as a group game style.

I still have to find some people who even think that would be fun. Am I completely off the grid? I’m thinking, hey! we gotta do this right now! Who knows where we’ll end up! Maybe I’m a freak, I can put myself in a dank cellar right now. There’s a leaking water pipe above me. It is too dark to see but I can hear it drip… slowly. The pain in my wrists is excruciating. I think I’m tied to a furnace or something. I move. Just a little. And I brush against something, and I think it moaned. Something made a sound. Was that a person? A corpse? A door above me swings open and a small shaft of light falls upon a flight of stairs. Into the frame steps a man. Who is that? Hey! It’s Cousin Eddie from the Lampoon Vacation movies! Is that a good thing or bad? Just kidding, but put a different location at the other end, say, yourself (or you as your character) feeding ducks at the park at sunset. How did you get from point A to point B? Go!

Anyway I got something that I think was pretty interesting if, perhaps, inept, and, certainly, incomplete. Scrivener tells me it is 895 words (which is a good single stretch for me) and 3 paperback pages. I wrote until I could go no further at that point, but I think there is material and even theme worthy material present.

So I offer it for, I hope, amusement. Note: I’ve been reading a lot of Lafferty lately and I think that peaked in a tiny bit in a sentence or two. Or I flatter myself, which would be odd of me.

Sad Face stood in the middle of the small room surrounded by Continue reading


Playing with Words

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As anyone here knows, I love the writing of R.A. Lafferty. One of the things I love the most is his word play. And sometimes they are downright funny.

I quote from the novel, Aurelia:

To scarifying reporter Jimmy Candor we owe such nomenclature as ‘dynamic apathy,’ ‘creative loitering,’ ‘dark-sides advocacy,’ ‘precursor reporting,’ ‘macho cookery,’ ‘constructive defamation,’ ‘diatonic intercourse,’ ‘compassionate hatred.’ All that Glitters is perhaps compassionate hatred, and it may be constructive defamation. That it is defamation there is no doubt.

Compassionate hatred, that’s great. Diatonic intercourse (is that conversation or the other?…) macho cookery. I giggle at constructive defamation. Oh, and creative loitering. You know that skill has been around for a long time, I never heard it named, however.


How Did I End Up On A Lafferty Site?

I was going through my site stats today and under yesterday’s referrers I see I was visited by a place called ralafferty.org. Specifically it was http://www.ralafferty.org/fans/. It is a site dedicated to all things Lafferty (that would R.A. Lafferty, to you, bub). And under its fans page my site is listed (under the English column, 8th site down… there you go).

About as close as I’ve come to fame, ha ha!

I realize I’ve written several pieces on Lafferty (of little value in my opinion) but I don’t think I should be on there (read prior parenthetical remark for the reason).

Also, I am nobody. And I do not say that self pityingly or with a false sense of humility. As my life stands right now I am a former high school drop out, ex-burger flipper turned bartender (I am pretty good at that) who writes science fiction as fast as a constipated duck with high blood pressure shits. Quack!

Jesus, it took me from 1994 to 2014 to quit cigarettes (I have gone long enough now to be comfortable in saying I do not smoke). I probably failed 3000 times if not more. And you all didn’t get a lightbulb out of those failures!

I play the guitar worse now than when I was 16 and I practice more now than I did then!

If you want a really good site from a Lafferty fan (I am a fan, a BIG one) go here for that. And apologies to Mr. Petersen for my site being higher on the list than his.