Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weirdbook #35 - Review by SE

Weirdbook #35Weirdbook #35 by Douglas Draa
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Weirdbook is highly recommended; a menu of high quality horror tales that span most genres.

Weirdbook is one of a few Weird Fiction magazines that persist. Weirdtales is likely the most famous, which emerged in the Pulp Era of the early Twentieth Century and comprised horror, dark fantasy, and Sword & Sorcery; Weirdtales exchanged hands over the decades and was carried/edited in the late 1980’s by John Betancourt and Darrell Schweitzer who both play a role in Weirdbook (Betancourt as Publisher & Executive Editor via Wildside Press, and Schweitzer as an anchoring author). In 1967 W. Paul Ganley edited Weirdbook magazine, its compelling run ceased in 1997 (Back issues available via Ganley’s ebay store). A century from its origins, Weird Fiction still has followers, but its identity is split across myriad markets/venues; in 2015, editor Doug Draa partnered with John Betancourt of Wildside Press to reboot the magazine with Weirdbook #31 (review link). [Fanboy aside: I was able to meet Ganley and Schweitzer at the World Fantasy Convention 2016 that I was blessed to moderate and panel a bit]. 

Calling Weirdbook #35 a "magazine" seems to minimize this ~200page book which is more a quality anthology. It has 22 contributing authors (18 stories, and 4 sets of poetry) and there are no reviews/advertising/articles one expects in a magazine. Skelos comes to mind as a contemporary magazine (newly kickstarted) which has those non-story features (also worth subscribing to).

In any event, Weirdbook #35 is entertaining and a great value.  Douglas Draa continues to share myriad adventures by new & seasoned authors with milieus running the gamut of weird-dark fantasy. It promises that readers will experience some flavor of horror. Expect equal parts ghost stories, psychedelic trips, gory murders, thoughtful introspections, and battles with the unknown! My favorite is the last entry from Darrell Schweitzer’s The Take and the Teller, but I enjoyed most of these (I star/earmark the ones below that I can’t get out of my head and will reread).  I’m usually mired in Sword & Sorcery, and reading Weirdbook allows me to branch out. I encourage others to do the same. Get Weirdbook. Don’t trust my “stars/earmarks” but find your own amongst the menu.


TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1.     The Pullulations of the Tribe by Adrian Cole, is gothic noir tale in which the sleuths must free hostages; more fun than horrific

2.     Dead of Night by Christopher Riley; very weird and satisfying horror on the high seas; contemporary milieu

3.     Mother of my Children by Bruce Priddy: short and weird dose of arachnids

4.     John Fultz's Man Who Murders Happiness is accurately titled, poignant, and disturbing

5.     * English's Handful of Dust a natural engaging story; could be described as ghost story, but it is more than that … I hate wasps BTW

6.     Ken Opperman's series of gothic poems re: “Carpathia” are a nice touch.

7.     Poetry “translated” by Fredrick J Mayer called Taken from the Tcho Tcho People’s Holy Codex is Elditch/Lovecraftian verses that didn’t make much sense to me (but I’m no acolyte yet, more advanced students of the occult may understand)

8.     Revolution a' la Orange by Paul Lubaczewski has nice historical context (1672 Dutch republic and William III) but too many scene breaks

9.     Fiends of the Southern Plains by Patrick Tumblety reads as frontier family faced with night haunts that have more faith than the humans--very dark and satisfying.

10.  * Stanley B. Webb's Pyrrhic Crusade is unique Sword ‘n’ Sorcery; the pacing was jarring at first, but the tale came together really well and covers a lot of ground

11.  Charles Wilkinson's futuristic Migration of Memories is reminiscent of Philip Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) but a touch more realistic than trippy

12.  Maquettes by MacKintosh is WWII, Nordic sea horror. Fun variation.

13.  The Dinner Fly poem by James Matthew Byers could be paired with Priddy’s story above

14.  In the Shadows by JS Watts, offers a new perspective on being depressed (contemporary horror)

15.  * "Lagillle's The Spot starts as a well-done, but typical, zombie apocalypse.... but then shifts into a weird trippy horror. Great stuff.

16.  Donald McCarthy's Schism in the Sky has a hermetic pastor encountering his god on an alien planet

17.  Janet Harriett's To Roam the Universe, Forgotten and Free is a heart wrenching, contemporary ghost story"

18.  Lily Luchesi's Rejuvenate is a short circus horror, which felt like a great outline for a larger novel

19.  * Crescentini's Vigil Night is dark fantasy at its finest; enough necromancy and madness for an entire army of knights

20.  Dead Clowns for Christmas by L.J. Dopp – mashing up the movies “Killer Clowns form Outerspace” and “Chuckie” yields something like this

21.  Jessica Amanda Salmonson offers Strange Jests four fable-like poems with fish/water themes

22.  * The Tale and the Teller , by Darrell Schweitzer read like a Lord Dunsany masterpiece. This one is worth the price of the book by itself.



The Tale and the Teller – Darrell Schweitzer, opens this way:

Who is the teller and to whom is the story told? Listen: there are voices, and the wind, and the sighing of the sea. Listen.
If you make your way a hundred miles up the Merimnian coast, you come to the Cape of Mournful Remembrance, and, beyond that, pass into a curious country, where high tablelands reach to the edge of the sea, the drop off sharply, revealing black, granite cliffs.

Now white ruins protrude out of the earth like, old, broken teeth, but once a great city stood there, called Belshadihphon, a name which means “City of a Thousand Moons.” So it was: in the days of the Empire of the Thousand Moons, it was the capital of half the world. Yet there remain only ghosts, and wisps of wind; and, of nights, when the tide rushes into the caves that honeycomb the whole landscape, you can hear millions of souls crying out, all those who died in the wars that brought the place glory. Not for sorrow, not for vengeance. Just crying, wordlessly, faintly, like tide and wind. 
It was called the City of a Thousand Moons because, in the great times, the very gods appeared on brilliant nights, rising out of the sea in their luminous robes, wearing masks like full moons, drifting up the cliffs and onto the tabeland, to walk among the pillared palaces of the great city, some of them even, or so it is claimed in stories like this one, to give counsel to the emperor on his throne.
You can still see the moon-masks. They have turned to stone and lie across the beach and the tableland like so many scattered coins.



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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper -

The Book of ParadoxThe Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper
S.E rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper
“An occult odyssey through the Tarot to an inner world beyond the portals of Death”

Aloethe’s life is taken by a jealous prince; Aloethe’s love, Varka, serves as a scapegoat to the murder. Sentenced to sacrifice at the temple of the Darxes, Lord of the Underworld, Varka awakens and is encouraged to find Aloethe in Limbo … if he can find the place. Varka is also empowered with the Book of Paradox, a magical book with pages/verses are cryptic, dynamic, and crucial to understand.
“You are indeed a thing of paradox,”[Varka] muttered under his breath, addressing the Book. “When I need you most, you tell me nothing, and when you are useful your words are impossible to understand.”

The actual Book of Paradox has 22 chapters, each named/influenced by the Major Arcana of the Tarot. A forward by the author’s first husband Gary Cooper explains the design: “The Book of Paradox represents the journey of the Fool through the initiations of the various cards. This is Varka’s fated quest, and one which leads him and the reader through many strange lands, into contact with many strange people, as will the Tarot itself.”

Louise Cooper was only twenty years old when her debut novel came out, and she was graced with a breath-taking Frank Frazetta cover (called “Paradox”). Each chapter has a frontispiece with an illustration by Barbara Nessim of the card influence in the current chapter along with a paragraph explaining the interpretation. Many mini-stories span 2-to-3 cards/chapters; for instance, the cover of Varka approaching vampire women is a scene from a story spanning (a) Chapters VII: The Chariot (Reversed) and (b) VIII: Fortitude.
Frazetta Paradox

This is a trippy adventure into an underworld that is more dream-like than it is horrifying. It is short and reads fast. The pacing and style is reminiscent of Michael Moorcock (known for his Elric novels) and there are some echoes of Jack Vance (1926-2013) and his Dying Earth series--iconic in RPG/D&D history since the naming of Items and Spells was simple: Magic Items such as Expansible Egg, Scintillant Dagger, and Live Boots...and Spells such as Excellent Prismatic Spray, Phandaal's Mantle of Stealth, Call to the Violent Cloud, Charm of Untiring Nourishment. There is an echo of Vance flare here, in that Louise Cooper offers location and titles similarly: Castle Without parallel, Queen of Blue, the Cave of Souls Passing, and the titular Book of Paradox.

The Tarot design is interesting but not obviously crucial/integral for the story; i.e., the Book of Paradox carried by Varka begged for a stronger connection to the Tarot cards, but the connection, if any, was not obvious. Nonetheless, it is a fun tale. Louise seems better known for her Time Master and Indigo series, which I plan to read.
The Initiate and Nemesis


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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Obscure Works Groupread - July Aug on Groupreads

The Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads.com 

will become "Obscure"!


Time to unearth arcana! Sword & Sorcery, our group reads for July and August are "OBSCURE WORKS." So we all won't be reading the same books, but we all can search for them, read, discuss, and review them! Let's shed a little light on lost gems.


Discussion Folder for Obscure Books Link - click here to join in! 


Remember the poll? Poll Link for obscure bookst... if you need a goal, try one of those. If you voted for one, read it or discuss why you chose it. Our banner is made from two of those items: 

Heather Gladney's Blood Storm (sequel to Teot's War of The Song of Naga Teot series). Cover by John Jude Palencar 1989

The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper, cover by Frank Frazetta 1973.

Blood Storm (The Song of Naga Teot, #2) by Heather Gladney The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fortress Of The Pearl - Review

Fortress Of The PearlFortress Of The Pearl by Michael Moorcock
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moorcock delivers souls for Arioch, and classic Elric for you, in The Fortress of the Pearl

Expect Michael Moorcock’s style/voice. It is “pulpy,” with tons of wild action. A breathtaking pace will drag you from your reading chair! It’s blistering. Literally, every few pages new conflict emerges, and is dealt with. Every 2-3 pages, Elric encounters mind-bending conflicts. This is awesome for the first 33%, then it becomes underwhelming/distracting since many of the threats are obtuse. Some sequences are spot-on awesome (fire beetles, tons of corpses blow apart via sorcery); and many are silly and wildly coincidental (a cameo from Whiskers the winged, fighting cat, really?).

Moorcock has a weird milieu in his Eternal Champion multiverse, and has dream-like worlds. In Fortress, this dreaminess is explicit, since Elric travels in dreams for >50% of the book [no spoilers there, the book flap reveals as much]. Fortress of the Pearl reads as if Elric quests for the Holy Grail in Dante’s Hell. In fact, Elric goes through ~6 levels of supernatural tours searching for a “Holy Girl” in the hidden/remote Fortress of the Pearl. Plenty of tour guides come and go through these levels:

  • Sadanor, Land of Dreams in Common
  • Marador, Land of Old Desires
  • Paranor, Land of Lost Beliefs
  • Celador, Land of Forgotton Love
  • Imador, Land of New Ambition
  • Faldor, Land of Madness

You’ll be treated to heavy doses of philosophy too, which usually add depth: life’s motivations, realization of dreams, moving past tragic pasts (avoid the City of Inventive Cowardice!), addressing conflict and political corruption, complacency on personal and social levels, etc.

Untapped Potential. The pacing and apparent random encounters, which are Moorcock Hallmarks, has limits. There still seems untapped potential here in Elric’s tale. Moorcock has started so many interesting threads that he’ll never be able to fill them in, but he hardly had to start new ones. Here, Oone the Dreamthief is introduced, for instance; her tale is clearly a setup for The Dreamthief's Daughter. Starting new tales is all well and good, but when word-count and pacing is designed to be dense/efficient, I would have enjoyed more explanation of Cymoril. She still lies in Imrryr (The Dreaming City), while he literally adventures in dreams. Melnibone’s past with Quarzhasaat is explained on a cursory level too. So, Moorcock delivered a decent, intermediate story. Yet he could have delivered much more.

On the whole, Fortress of the Pearl is a wondrous blend of Sword and Sorcery. It had me hooked. It developed Elric story and character well enough (note that it was published last in the sequence but is only #2 chronologically). Elric remains a must read for fantasy fans, especially Sword & Sorcery fans (Howard, Leiber, Wagner,…). If starting new, try reading in chronological sequence:

Story Chronology #: Title (publication year)
1: Elric of Melniboné (1972)
2: Fortress Of The Pearl (1989)
3: The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (1976)
4: The Weird of the White Wolf (1961)
5: Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress (1970)
6: Revenge of the Rose (1991)
7: The Bane of the Black Sword (1962)
8: Stormbringer (1963)

Elric of Melniboné (Elric, #1) by Michael Moorcock Fortress Of The Pearl by Michael Moorcock The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (Elric, #2) by Michael Moorcock The Weird of the White Wolf (The Elric Saga, #3) by Michael Moorcock Revenge of the Rose by Michael Moorcock The Bane of the Black Sword (The Elric Saga, #5) by Michael Moorcock Stormbringer (Elric, #6) by Michael Moorcock


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Friday, May 26, 2017

Weston's The IX - Review by SE

The IX  (The IX #1)The IX by Andrew P. Weston
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fresh Alien/Military/YA Adventure

Andrew P. Weston’s The IX is fun and genre-spanning for sure, being a mashup of military sci-fi and fantasy. Think of mixing Star Trek, John Carter of Mars, and Alien/Predator into a blender. However, it actually reads more like a Young-Adult mystery. Give the proverbial Hardy Boys some assault rifles and space suits, join them on a distant planet, and save all life from alien corruption--be part of the IXth! Without spoiling, the premise revolves on the sudden gathering of the below groups across time:
1. The IXth Lost, Roman Legion (~120 CE)
2. Abraham Lincoln’s US Calvary (1800 CE)
3. An anti-terrorist special forces group (~2052 CE)

The challenge/promise presented is that all these groups are related somehow…and an alien Horde threatens them all. There are tons of characters embroiled in time-travel & a bizarre fight for survival, but the characters do not carry the story. The mystery of the situation does.
- What is the belligerent Horde?
- Why are three pairs of warring groups selected throughout time and space to play a role battling the Horde?
- How are these pairs of earthly enemies going to work together?

The IX is lighthearted too, so as you go from control-room reporting and war-room planning to the alien fields of Arden, you’ll be tossed onto the front line with dose of humor. Hold onto your drawers! There are dozens of characters, but Lieutenant McDonald and Ayria emerge as central protagonists. “Mac” is an intelligent, special-forces operative, a contemporary smart-aleck (wait…I may have just described the author; see his BIO below) and Ayria is a physician with a splendid, weird ancestry. I adored Ayria and her story & chapters the most. She is paired with Stained With Blood, a Native American dream walker, and their experiences were the most meaningful to me.

All threads of this militaristic mystery are resolved, but it also sets up a sequel: Exordium of Tears. The author’s voice shines through. From his BIO sheet, we learn that he is a Royal Marine and Police Veteran with studies in astronomy and law. It’s clear he is drawing from his experience. I was drawn to this book after reading Hell Bound, a Heroes in Hell novel featuring Daemon Grim (aka Satan’s Hitman, of course). Daemon Grim is also developed with mysterious elements, but his character is more developed than any provided in IX. I’ll be reading more of Weston for sure, though I am more attracted to Hell than Space so I may prioritize the Hell series.

The IX (The IX #1) by Andrew P. Weston Exordium of Tears by Andrew P. Weston
Hell Bound (Heroes in Hell) by Andrew P. Weston Doctors in Hell (Heroes in Hell #18) by Janet E. Morris Pirates in Hell (Heroes in Hell #20) by Janet E. Morris

Author’s BIO: Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats. An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestselling IX Series and Hell Bound, (A novel forming part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe). Andrew also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society, the British Science Fiction Association and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. When not writing, An drew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hell Week 2017




Author Alexandria L. Butcher is hosting Hell Week 2017 on her blog. It's a series of inter

views with the characters from Pirates in Hell (just released fantasy/historical-fiction from Perseid Press).

There are a lot of damned characters pooled together across time, as shown in The Heroes of Hell 2017 class photo. Now you can hear from them directly.

Quasimodo just started to lead the pack! Each day I'll update the links here, but you may just follow Alex's blog.

"My name, it is Quasimodo. In life, I was once crowned Pope of Fools, for I was and still I am the most ugly and misshapen cathedral bell ringer of them all. The Hunchback of Notre Dame . . . that is who I was and what I am now and forever more..."




    "I am Ernest Haeckel, renowned evolutionist, artist, and philosopher. You heard of my contemporary Charles Darwin, no doubt? I coined the term ecology and am famous for my beautiful drawings of lifeforms. My embryological montages unexpectedly drew anger from my fellow scientists.  They deemed I embellished too much. Yet, I stand by my depictions of embryos and the notion that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. You look confused, no doubt because of your retarded ancestry..."

My name is Captain Charles—Allweather—Vane. Born in 1680, I was a pirate operating out of the notorious base at New Providence in the Bahamas known as the “Pirates’ republic”, after the British abandoned the colony during the War of the Spanish Succession. What is the WORST thing about being in Hell?  The rum. It tastes like urine distilled through sweaty socks…on a good day. And the grog? I’ve sampled vomit that possesses more body and refinement




"I am William Lauder (1680–1771) and while alive was a Scottish literary forger, the second son of Dr William Lauder, one of the original 21 Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, by his spouse Catherine Brown. My success was short-lived. Several scholars, who had independently studied the alleged sources of Milton’s inspiration, showed that I had not only garbled most of my quotations, but had inserted amongst them extracts from a Latin version of Paradise Lost."


"My name is Bartholomew Roberts, although in your time you would be more likely to know me as ‘Black Bart’, a name which, I should point out, was attributed to me after my death.  I was third mate on a slaver ship in 1719 when we were captured by pirates while anchored off the Gold Coast.  I and two others were pressed into pirate service, and once the Captain discovered my skill as a navigator I became quite useful to him.  At first I was reluctant to fall in with such a lot, but it took very little time for me to realize the advantages of such a life far outweighed the disadvantages of being a British sailor, and I took to it, deciding that a life of low wages and harsh treatment were far less preferable to a short life and a merry one."

"I am Medea, daughter of the king of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of Helios the sun god, priestess of Hekate, who rules Erebos and judges the damned who come there. More to the point, I am the oldest witch in hell.  I met Jason when he came to Colchis to claim his inheritance and swore to claim his throne by bringing home the Golden Fleece. Like a fool, I fell in love with him. I helped him secure the Fleece, pass every test, on the condition that he would marry me should we succeed. Sailing in the Argos with his Argonauts, we did all of those, and more. Why am I in Hell? Jason and I killed my brother, who came chasing after us to grab the Fleece once we secured it. Then, later, when he spurned me for a daughter of Creon’s, did I turn upon fickle Jason, and killed both our children. Although I had a right to my revenge, one of those or both brought me to hell."

"I am Orpheus, son of the Thracian king Oeagros or perhaps even of Apollo, but most certainly sprung from the belly of the Muse Calliope, forever to hear the strains of her harmonies in all things. The strings of the lyre thrill to my touch as I to them and men and birds and fishes to the tides of all that is....I am in hell, as in life, to be taken amiss in perpetuity, to poetize, sing and play upon my instruments in accord with each unfolding moment and sway all souls about me to respond according to their nature and be reviled for doing so, for their differences cast them at odds."


 


"I, Henry Morgan, was born in Wales around the year 1635 but the opportunities for a Welshman in those days for adventure and wealth were scarce, so I set out for the West Indies for some excitement, and to try to make my fortune as a privateer. The governor of Jamaica gave me a letter of marque so that I could legally attack Spanish ships and seize their cargo. I was even able to attack many cities under Spanish rule, including Panama City, Porto Bello, and Maracaibo raiding them for their riches... I became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica after retiring from privateering... After dying and ending up in hell, I suffered many lifetimes worth of years of drudgery and toil before I could acquire my own ship and begin plundering the riches of the ships on the seas of hell."


Pirates in Hell is now available!  Paperback  /  Kindle  / Nook