Saturday, May 28, 2022

Friday, May 27, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull - Blog Round-Up May27


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog May 27th 2022 Round-Up

Blogger Master and Skull Minion of the Fifth Order, Bill Ward, continues to collect and share splendid incantations. Here are the latest six:

May 6: Classic Covers: Fred Saberhagen

Prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy series, Fred Saberhagen is best known for his Berserker series of far-future space operas in which a beleaguered mankind squares off against a malign machine intelligence, and the Swords series, detailing a massive conflict involving numerous key players and their unique swords of power. Often combining magic, post-apocalyptic, and military themes in his fiction, Saberhagen’s steady output through the second half of the twentieth century ensured that not only did his larger-than-life narratives entertain a worldwide audience, but his work inspired dozens of first-rate cover illustrations during the boom years of commercial fantasy paperback publishing.


 May 12: Adventures in Fiction: Roger Zelazny and the Chronicles of Amber by Steve Bean

The idea of space gods seems somewhat commonplace today, but Roger Zelazny is the reason that most of us are familiar with them. Today, Steve Bean explores Zelazny’s work and the impact it had on both fiction and gaming. By virtue of his unusual last name, Roger Zelazny is last in Appendix N. This author wonders: “How many readers have never gotten all the way down the list, leaving Zelazny a mystery?” And so, around the anniversary of his birth, let’s take a look at this three-time Nebula Award winner (nominated 14 times), six-time Hugo Award winner (coincidentally, also 14 nominations) and “last-but-by-nomeans-least” author, focusing on his best-known work: The Chronicles of Amber.


May 17: Classic Covers: Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny’s explosion onto the speculative fiction scene was practically the horn blast announcing the coming of science fiction’s New Wave, at least in the United States. This fresh injection of modern literary techniques and counter-culture sensibilities into the genre of robots and rocket ships sparked a fertile period of experimentation that saw the genre develop a keen interest in the interior world of the human mind, inverting the frontiers of exploration from the distant and impersonal far corners of space, to the inner life of the individual.

Zelazny combined headlong pulp pacing with literary experimentation and a fine ear for language — as well as an almost mischievous love for the juxtapositions of myth and modernity. While he played with structure and technique in his stories, and freely combined tropes from multiple genres (as in many of his greatest works, such as the Amber SeriesLord of Light, and Jack of Shadows), Zelanzy’s racetrack mind was one of wildly creative invention, nothing like the de(con)structionist mindset of many of those embracing the New Wave as an opportunity to undermine what had come before. Zelazny, a natural storyteller of tremendous imagination, strengthened the foundations of fantasy and science fiction even while exuberantly constructing his own inimitable edifice upon its stones


May 20: No Darkness Without Light: Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows

Godlike beings in competition, the bending of natural laws, a multiplicity of strange environments, the collision of magic and science, characterization rooted in myth and metaphor, and stakes of cosmological or world-shattering import – Roger Zelazny’s most popular fiction, be it his Amber Series, his brilliant Lord of Light, or the subject of this essay, Jack of Shadows, showcase the inherent fascinations that inform much of his work. Not that a grab-bag of story elements alone could possibly define an author – particularly one as creatively unrestrained as Zelazny – but if you should see such a grab-bag flung over the back of a man in a hurry, shades black, cigarette canted, perhaps as he races with seemingly suicidal speed atop a growling chrome hog though the log-jammed streets of conventional narrative, then you’ve just spotted one of the wildest storytellers of the twentieth century. Run after him!


May 24: The Far-Flung Literary Webs of Manly Wade Wellman by Brian Murphy

I’ve always been interested in the great chain of influence, the through-lines from one writer to the next. And I still get a thrill when I discover them, or better yet, experience them in the texts themselves. One of these great through-lines is Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986). While he does not seem widely read today, the threads of Manly’s life and work are inextricably woven through horror and sword-and-sorcery, from the pulps all the way up to the present day. Even if you haven’t read him, odds are you’ve experienced Wellman in one way or another.

There is a clear literary chain from H.P. Lovecraft to Wellman, on to Karl Edward Wagner and Stephen King. I think it continues in Joe Lansdale, whom Wellman must have influenced, though my somewhat cursory internet research has not turned up anything definitive (Wellman did influence King, who influenced Lansdale). You can see the similarities in the authentic regional voice both use in their stories.


May 27: The Adventures of Elfboot and Hellstallion: Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish, the Damned

Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish, the Damned is a collection of short stories that includes both some of his earliest work, and later stories written with the established authorial voice familiar to fans of his Amber Series. One might say that in tone and style Dilvish, the Damned is as odd and unpredictable as the titular character’s adventures. Beginning with some of Zelazny’s earliest writing, two pieces that originally appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination in the mid-60s written in the mode of a Dunsany or E.R. Eddison, and ending with work from the late seventies and early eighties, much of which was written to expand the story cycle to book length, Dilvish, the Damned is as much a fun romp through sword-and-sorcery fields as it is a snapshot of Zelazny’s evolution as a writer.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Terra Incognita: Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure - Overview by S.E.

This expands on a press release for Terra Ingognita posted on Black Gate this May. NEW TREASURES: DMR PRESENTS TERRA INCOGNITA: LOST WORLDS OF FANTASY AND ADVENTURE

Since I am a contributing author, I will bypass any rating and just provide a perspective that readers may appreciate.

Readers of Black Gate will be familiar with D.M. Ritzlin (champion of DMR books) and Doug Draa (editor of Weirdbook Magazine and Startling Stories).. For this they gathered seven authors, including many Black Gate veterans (contributors or featured in the articles): David C. SmithAdrian ColeS.E. Lindberg, J. Thomas Howard, Milton DavisJohn C. Hocking, & Howard Andrew Jones.  Expect trips into lost worlds…but expect them with a fantasy, Sword & Sorcery bias. Each story presents different storytelling styles in varied milieus, from Cosmic Horror, Irish and African mythologies, to complete fantasy worlds on land and sea.



Unknown territory: An unexplored country or field of knowledge — Merriam Webster

“Does that sound exciting and dangerous? I hope so. We never know what’s over the hill or ahead of us up around the bend. It might be something exciting and dangerous. Or simply wondrous and surprising. Perhaps even a mixture of all these. We never know though, until we take that final step into the unknown. The blank areas on old maps were labeled hic sunt dracones, here there be dragons. As frightening and as daunting as that sounds, it’s also a siren’s call to the adventurous among us.

… Looking back now, it’s clear to see that a large portion of genre literature dealt directly with this theme. Writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Abraham Merritt devoted a large portion of their work to stories about exploring the unknown.

… For this collection we are sticking to the realms of fantasy in order to see what is out there, lost and lurking. I envy every one of you. I do. Truly! You are getting to read these marvelous tales of adventure for the very first time. And this is one of those things in life that you can only experience once.” – snippets from Doug Draa’s introduction

Terra Incognita: Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure

You are holding a ticket in your hands. A ticket for a voyage of thrills, wonder, and discovery as seven of today’s top fantasists, each one a master of Heroic Fantasy, transport you to lands beyond your imagination. Lands of fantasy and adventure. And the only passport needed is your imagination.

Cover Art

The cover by Laura Gornik is splendidly appropriate for lost world travel/adventure. I adore the apparent phase-inversion of the space (i.e., dark objects dispersed in white fog …that get flipped into white bubbles in dark tentacles/beams).  It calls to mind M.C. Escher’s famous tiling (i.e. Sky and Water) and it represents the travel the reader will experience going from reality into seamless other-worlds.


Table of Contents with Personal Notes


  1. "Shadow of the Serpent" - David C. Smith’s courageous rebels under the leadership of the undying warrior Akram must form an alliance with an ancient race to overthrow murderous usurpers, along with their necromantic masters, who are hellbent on destroying their kingdom in an insane attempt to conquer the world.

Akram is a cursed immortal who is featured in the novel The Sorcerer’s Shadow: 1982 (original title: The Shadow of Sorcery).  It is part of the author’s ongoing stories of Attluma, which is Atlantean-inspired, horror S&S,; Akram can be considered a character akin to Karl Wagner’s Kane. This reads like a legend and might be most appreciated by readers already familiar with the cursed protagonist. I highly recommend Tales of Attluma and checking out this tour guide:  TALES OF ATTLUMA BY DAVID C. SMITH: A REVIEW AND ORON SERIES TOUR GUIDEIt is an honor to share a TOC with David, and bring Dr. Grave and Akram one more step closer to rubbing shoulders.


  1. "The Place of Unutterable Names" - Adrian Cole transports a group of explorers to a Lovecraftian netherworld of no return. Or is there, if one is courageous enough?

This is one of my favorites of the collection since it wholeheartedly embraces the lost-world theme. It is a superbly executed homage to Howard Phillip’s Lovecraft work (arguably easier to read than most of HPL actually).  Cole invites the reader to leave reality in HPL style: from the framing of the story to the call-outs to the elder god Nyarlathotep, the landscapes of Kadath like the Plateau of Leng, and the exploratory expedition akin to At the Mountains of Madness.  The pacing and wonder are spot-on.  Its placement before my story is fortuitous. This builds the Eldritch culture vs human civilization, and has strong does of fungal body horror & Insect-men (that echo my One Hive. Two Queens.)

Fungus Excerpt

 "When we reached the cavern, we rested. What a place that was! Gouged out of the naked rock, certainly by prediluvian hands, it reared up to an invisible ceiling and spread out on all sides, unfathomable without stronger light. There were countless rocks and heaps of stone debris, but it was clear even in the murk that some of these blocks and monoliths had been deliberately cut and shaped. Intelligent beings had once lived here, though how long ago that had been was impossible to calculate….The fungi seemed to be burying into the rock, as though feeding from it. It seemed to be in varying degrees of development: there were grouped globules of sickly white, criss-crossed with purple veins, while stacked above these were layer upon layer of broad mushrooms, some of which had opened up to release, I assumed, countless spores. Their colours varied from livid yellow to soiled brown, and higher still up the cavern walls, the thread-like mycelia spread like a colossal spider’s web, ever probing for cracks and crevices, anchoring further colonization."


"I saw, too, insectoid, human-sized beings with exoskeletons, living in fantastically complex nest networks, protected by their warrior armies, always striving to expand their empire, adding to the wars and tribulations of a world in turmoil. It was no surprise to me to see the extent to which dinosaurs roamed, some wild and terrible, feared and avoided by lesser creatures, man included, others living in a kind of harmony with man, used as cavalry in his armies, a formidable fighting force."

  1. "One Hive Two Queens" - S.E. Lindberg gives us a distant world where two alien sisters, who were created in the image of man, wage a war against each other to determine the future of their world.

This presents a “weird fiction” take on the civilization-vs-barbarism trope. Here, the colonization of a lost land pits civilized humanity vs. eldritch natives. Spearheading the conflict are two sisters, humanoid golem maidens, who vie for control over an abandoned, eldritch hive (their birthplace). These golems are hybrids by nature, humans shaped from the earth. Melanie leans toward her earthy constitution; deemed a child-eating, bog-loving lamia by occupying humans, she aims to protect nature and the land’s past, going so far as to nurture neglected nests of larvalwyrmen. Her sister, Ember, embraces human proclivities; she leads the colonialization of the hive and aims to erase all eldritch history. One hive cannot accommodate multiple queens. Witness the battle that will decide nature’s owner.

This tale features two golem daughters of Dr. Grave, who is prominent in my Dyscrasia Fiction; a few other short stories about Gave’s golem family have appeared online and can be read now for free: 

All my writing is based on alchemy and is designed to feel bizarrely unique (i.e. “weird). BTW a key scene was catalyzed by Peter Jackson’s 2001 adaptation of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, the Flight to the Ford scene specificallyOf course, one must replace [the angelic Arwen and the ailing Frodo] with a dark goddess saving giant larvae, to better envision the inspiration.

  1. "The Siege of Eire" - J. Thomas Howard reveals the harsh realities of ancient Eire, Samhain, and the war between the Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann.
This is another favorite of mine since it resonates the theme of lost worlds, an escape from modernity and civilization with glorious battle in the Irish-inspired underworld. Stylistically, it feels lyrical like Dunsany, but it is so action-heavy that REH fans will devour the melee. Here’s an excerpt:
"He drew his runic blade. The combatants circled. The Dullahan’s range gave him advantage, and Reglin knew it and was eager to close the distance. Thrice the whip kept him at bay, but at last he gained an opening. He dove in, driving his sword towards the armored chest. The markings on the blade became luminous. But the Dullahan brought round his other weapon, his very head, and it crashed into the lunging Fomorian’s face. The boney jaws clenched, tearing into the blue skin and red flesh. Blood ran down the ivory teeth. Reglin faltered and the whip came roaring round. But even blinded by his pain the admiral caught the skeletal weapon with his sword. Viridian flames erupted where the two artifacts met, but Reglin’s free hand still clutched his bleeding face, and the Dullahan struck once more with his head, and his jaws latched onto Reglin’s throat. They tore, and blood erupted high into the air. The Fomorian slumped down to the beach, his sanguine ruin profaning the white shore."
  1. "Warriors of Mogai"- Milton Davis introduces us to a young man, barely past boyhood, who has to brave great dangers on his own to seek the help of ancient allies who may no longer exist.
Ostensibly the conflict is against desert people invading, but this story highlights the prelude to battle. The hero Koboye seeks out help from the lost city of Mogai. It felt more like a chapter than it did a stand-alone tale. Slower-paced than the preceding stories, this African-inspired fantasy is a welcome shift in variety. Milton is known for being a champion of Sword & Soul, writing his own characters (i.e., Changa, Omari) and spearheading MLVmedia (publishers of frofuturism, Sword and Soul, Steamfunk and more!).

  1. "Necropolis Gemstone" John C. Hocking regales with the plight of a young archivist who is forced at swordpoint to travel into a parallel world full of horrors from a time long forgotten
Many will know Hocking from his Conan pastiche. Of course, he also has his Archivist series (check out that tour guide here: Archiving the King’s Blade Champion: An interview with John C. Hocking). Including an archivist character in Terra Incognita to document the otherworld makes complete sense! As with Hocking’s short stories that have appeared in many venues, including a bunch on Tales from the Magician’s Skull, he lays out a plot that ramps up continuously and delivers with some wild creative creature. Classic Hocking here.

  1. "From the Darkness Beneath" Howard Andrew Jones sets sail into adventure with a group of sea-going merchants and their passengers. Many of them are not who they seem to be and only reveal their true selves once a sunken kingdom from the bottom of the sea launches an attack against the travelers.

Fantasy readers will likely recognize Howard Andrew Jones who recently finished his Oathsworn Trilogy and has been a long-time contributor to Pathfinder novels; he also is the editor for Tales From the Magician's Skull Magazine and his interns carefully obey his every command lest they be immolated. HAJ has several sets of characters he likes to write about, like his Asim and Dabir Sword & Sandal stories; without spoiling much, this story occurs in Howard’s Hanuvar universe (inspired by Hannibal the Carthaginian). This episode occurs on the high seas and has long-dead sorcerers crawling back to life.          

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Weird Fiction and Sword & Sorcery GenCon Panels Moderated by SE

GenCon Writer's Symposium is back (Aug4-7, Indianapolis IN)
Check out the 119 Writer's Symp events: (75 panels, 42 workshops, the Meet-the-Pros and D&D-with-Authors events)

... this post highlights five panels...

Weird Fiction and Sword & Sorcery GenCon Panels

Moderated by SE (link):

Repulsive Appeal  (SEM22214058)

Thursday, 11:00 AM EDT

Location: Marriott : Austin   

How do we make horror appealing? Maurice Broaddus, Richard Dansky, Byron Leavitt, Jason Ray Carney, Steve Diamond, S.E. Lindberg (M)



BACK TO PULP  (SEM22214087)

Friday, 10:00 AM EDT

Location: Marriott : Austin 

Pulp is back! Why? And how do you do it right? Jaym Gates, Richard Lee Byers: Howard Andrew Jones; Jason Ray Carney, S.E. Lindberg (M)



Gamifying Stories and Storifying Games (SEM22214106)

Friday, 2:00 PM EDT

Location: Marriott : Blrm 1

Translating from one media to the other. Jennifer Brozek, Byron Leavitt, Matt John, Lucien Soulban, S.E. Lindberg (M)



Sword & Sorcery Renaissance in Writing (SEM22214118)

Friday, 4:00 PM EDT

Location: Marriott : Blrm 1

 Is the genre coming back? Did it ever go away? Jaym Gates, Daniel Myers, Howard Andrew Jones, Matthew John; Jason Ray Carney, Paul Weimer, S.E. Lindberg (M)




Saturday, 5:00 PM EDT

Location: Marriott : Blrm 4

How to adopt someone's writing style, and where to blur the line to original. Howard Andrew Jones, Matthew John, Jason Ray Carney, S.E. Lindberg (M)



As featured on Black Gate May 10th 2022:


Rainbringer: The Symphonic Heavy Metal of Weird Fiction

Edward M. Erdelac has been writing entertaining weird fiction for over a decade. He pushes boundaries. One of his first spotlights on Black Gate was in 2014 regarding his Merkabah Rider (concerning the 19th-century Hasidic Jewish mystic turned gunslinger).  Erdelac also wrote an entry in Tales of Cthulhu Invictus mentioned in my recent 2022 review of Richard L. Tierney’s Simon of Gitta tales (this connection resonates since both Tierney and Erdelac extended the mythos of Robert E. Howard’s magical Ring of Set… more on that below). The author clearly has a knack for extending the landscapes (dreamscapes?) of modern fiction.

With Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos, Erdelac invites us to follow a fictionalized version of Zora Neale Hurston throughout the North American Twentieth Century. On the face of that description, you may not be hooked. Like most people, I presume, I had no idea of who she was…. or why she may present a wonderful lens into cosmic horrors. Read on! She’s a strong, witty survivor who is uniquely qualified.

Rainbringer reminds me of splendid, symphonic (or operatic) Heavy Metal music. It combines the literary foundation of solid historic fiction (arguably Classical music) with the wild experiences of intense adventure (“\m/”…. that’s the emoticon for “rock on” BTW). Cozy mystery readers may be lured into reading Rainbringer for its historic influences, but they will have their minds blown when cosmic demons are revealed to be meddling with humankind. Likewise, readers of classic weird fiction (i.e., Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Robert Howard, etc.) will be treated to an extremely fresh take: a heroine in charge, and African American woman to boot! This review covers the Contents, Zora, Excerpts, and more.

Back Cover Blurb

“The oaths of secrecy she [Zora Neale Hurston] swore, and the terrifying physical and emotional ordeals she endured…left their mark on her, and there were certain parts of her material which she never dared to reveal, even in scientific publications.” – Alan Lomax

ZORA! She traveled the 1930’s south alone with a loaded forty four and an unmatched desire to see and to know. She was at home in the supper clubs of New York City, back road juke joints, under ropes of Spanish moss, and dancing around the Vodoun peristyle. Her experiences brought us Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mules And Men, Tell My Horse, and Jonah’s Gourd Vine. But between the lines she wrote lie the words unwritten, truths too fantastic to divulge….until now.

LEAVES FLOATING IN A DREAM’S WAKE, BEYOND THE BLACK ARCADE. EKWENSU’S LULLABY. KING YELLER. GODS OF THE GRIM NATION. THE SHADOW IN THE CHAPEL OF EASE. BLACK WOMAN, WHITE CITY. THE DEATHLESS SNAKE. Eight weird and fantastic stories spanning the breadth of her amazing life. Eight times when she faced the nameless alien denizens of the outer darkness and didn’t blink.

ZORA! Celebrated writer, groundbreaking anthropologist, Hoodoo initiate, footloose queen of the Harlem Renaissance, Mythos detective.

So, Who Was Zora?

Paraphrasing from the author’s introduction best explains:

The Zora Neale Hurston depicted in this book is not the real person, of course. The real Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida on January 15th, in (according to her, at various times in her life) either 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, and 1910.

Except she wasn’t. She was actually born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891. Her birth year changed as it suited her purposes. She needed to apply for school, wanted to impress a younger man, whatever. She was somehow always vivacious and gregarious enough to sell her claims.

As to her hometown, you can’t blame Zora for claiming Eatonville. It was among the first all-black incorporated towns in the United States, and her father was once elected its mayor, helped write its laws, and was pastor of its largest Baptist church. Combined, these elements surely instilled in her a fierce sense of independence and pride that caught a number of her contemporaries later in life, black and white, by complete surprise…

In New Orleans, gathering material on Hoodoo for a book, she was inducted into the mysteries of the magical folk practice by Luke Turner following a grueling three day ritual. She wrote Langston Hughes; “I am getting in with the top of the profession. I know 18 tasks, including how to crown the spirit of death, and kill.”

Zora was many things in the course of her life; anthropologist, author, teacher…she was probably never a Mythos detective.

Historic & Weird Ingredients

Rainbringer‘s realistic milieu hosts characters such as Zora Neale Hurston, her white benefactress Charlotte Osgood Mason, the musician Asadata Dafora, and even Orson Welles. They roam New Orleans, Harlem during its Renaissance, and even a trip to Honduras’s famed Monkey Temple. Both Voodoo (the religion) and Hoodoo (the associated spiritual practices) are prominent, in addition to the timely governmental program Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Voodoo Macbeth focus in the “King Yeller” chapter was outstanding as it fictionalized the 1936 production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth led by Orson Welles. Plenty of references to slavery abound, as well as classic literature references (i.e., Lysistrata, the story of a woman who led a movement to deny men sex to end the Peloponnesian War) ground us in reality.

Fantasy is firmly rooted in weird fiction (which also flourished in the 1930’s).  Author Robert W. Chambers’s The King in Yellow (1895) mythos is integrated firmly here, especially interwoven with the Voo Macbeth production. From Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan), the Serpent Ring of Set is treated with an extended mythos (originally appearing in the 1932 “The Phoenix on the Sword”); Akaan creatures (echoing those from Solomon Kane’s battles in “Wings in the Night” published in 1932); also from REH, we experience elements from his King Kull (i.e., the serpent men from Valusia). And then there are the ever-present Howard Phillips Lovecraft cosmic deities, such as Yig, Nyarlathotep, Tsathoggua; Erdelac almost made me believe that the Dreamland of Kadath was reachable via Zora’s touring.

Chronicles of Zora’s life in Chapters

A concise introduction reveals the protagonist’s history. Then the chapters chronicle her bizarre experiences from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. The last chapter “The Deathless Snake” is unexpectedly emotive and wild.

  • Zora: A Brief, Inadequate, and Likely Inaccurate Summation of A Life
  • 1925: Leaves Floating In A Dream’s Wake
  • 1928: Beyond The Black Arcade (published first in Heroes Of Red Hook, Golden Goblin Press, 2016.)
  • 1935: Ekwensu’s Lullaby (published first in Beyond Red Hook, Golden Goblin Press, 2016)
  • 1936: King Yeller
  • 1937: Gods of The Grim Nation (published first in Dread Shadows In Paradise, Golden Goblin Press, 2016)
  • 1940: The Shadow In The Chapel of Ease
  • 1947: Black Woman, White City
  • 1960-1975: The Deathless Snake
  • Afterword

Crazy Melee Excerpt

This woman anthropologist could give Indiana Jones a run for his money.  She handles a 0.44 Magnum just fine.  And wrestles with elder gods!

There was a flood of light then, and silhouettes peered down at me in the hold. The shrill cacophony of that indescribable call flooded my numb limbs with nervous strength, and I sprang from the stinking bowels of that boat like something vomited up. I latched onto one of those peering figures, digging my nails into the flesh beneath the long, greasy hair, stifling the shriek of surprise with my own mouth, locking onto the face of my oppressor in a ravenous kiss, biting, chewing through the hairy lips, tearing the tongue from between the desperately locking teeth, driving that white man to the wet deck and pushing my thumbs through his neck so blood bubbled and coursed up over my hands like the birth of a virgin spring. I was not alone. All around me my people tore through our captors, twisting their heads off with the chains that bound them, seizing hatchets and knives and returning them to their hated owners edge first, going over the side with them into the marsh and resurfacing alone if at all.

Trippy Dreamscapes Excerpt

Twentieth Century history is breached by dreams and violent entities.

I was standing in some colorless, gray place, in a field of dead grass on which the gray, heavy clouds seemed to roll, slowly dying, pierced now and again by bare, twisted trees and broken stones. There was no sound of wind or rustle of beast, but there was an incessant lapping, as of water, which my dream-self then navigated by.

Far across that water, which seemed to be a vast lake, the suns slipped from sight, and I saw the strange yellow limned spires of a gray, quiet city, the architecture unknown to me. I knew somehow that these tall, alien skyscrapers were the tombstones I had been expecting all along, markers of a population long dead if it had ever been at all. No watercraft moved to or from its unseen harbor. No bleat of traffic or noise of any passersby came to me across the water, only the incessant, dull lap of the black lake on the gray shore. But then I heard a flapping sound, as of many banners streaming, and I saw the first flash of color; mustard yellow streams of ribbons tied to every inch of a nearby dead tree. They fluttered madly in every direction, flaring like stagecraft fire, though no wind blew and they had not been there before…

Rocking from the topmost skeletal branch, pierced through its eyelet, there hung a queer, inexpressive, whey-faced mask, the appearance of which filled me with such loathing I retched.

Inspirations Revealed

Paraphrasing from the Afterward, we learn the context for Erdelac’s muse and genuine passion.

Zora was one of a kind, and as I worked my way through her other folklore book Mules and Men, her short stories, her essays, through Moses, Man Of The Mountain and her personal letters, I came to love her ardently. I was enraptured by her biographies, knocked silly by her quotations and the bold and brassy way she came at life.

Well, the how came with Oscar Rios’ Golden Goblin Press putting out a call for Caribbean-themed Lovecraftian horror.

I flipped through Wade Davis and my Tell My Horse, and found a quote by Zora that kicked it all in motion; “Research….is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.” Writers of Lovecraftiana hone in on the word ‘cosmic’ like bees to pollen…

So I started thinking of Zora as the type of woman who wouldn’t flinch at the Old Ones; an occult scholar more in the Robert E. Howard mode, and one who could be honor bound to keep secrets…

What made me, a white man, think I could write one of the most beloved and important African American women of the Harlem Renaissance? I’m afraid any drawn out, carefully mulled-over answer I can concoct will end up sounding like a stereotypical display of white privilege at best, so I’ll just keep it to this; Simply and truthfully, I love Zora Neale Hurston.


Edward M. Erdelac

Edward M. Erdelac is the author of the acclaimed Judeocentic/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah RiderConquerRainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian MythosAndersonville, Monstrumfuhrer, The Knight With Two Swords, and the compiler of Abraham Van Helsing’s papers (in Terovolas).

In addition to short story appearances in dozens of anthologies and periodicals, he is an independent filmmaker, an award-winning screenwriter, and sometime Star Wars contributor.

Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he now lives in the Los Angeles area with his family.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull - May 4th 2022 Blog Round-Up


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog May 4th 2022 Round-Up

APR 22  Classic Covers: Avram Davidson

Twentieth-century genre fiction produced a number of huge talents that liked to try it all — writing across category labels in blissful violation of what would one day become the standard practice of brand marketing. Indeed, for prolific writers of both the pulp and science fiction golden ages of magazine fiction, casting one’s net wide across the flimsy genre partitions of the day was just a common-sense way to broaden your market. Prolific author of short fiction, as well as essayist, editor (including a stint at the helm of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), and novelist Avram Davidson stands right alongside genre-hopping giants like Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, or Jack Vance as a writer that refused to stay fenced in. Whether in his dozens of undefinable short stories, or his pulpish far-future SF, magic-infused novels of alternate history (the Vergil Magus and Peregrine series), or tales of mystery and weird horror set in imaginary nations of the contemporary world, Davidson demonstrated a roving intellect ever-eager to explore the wild hinterlands of speculative fiction.

APR 25  Adventures in Fiction: Fletcher Pratt by Jeff Goad

The Appendix N is a list of prolific authors of science fiction and fantasy. But Fletcher Pratt is not one of them, at least not in comparison to most of the authors on the list. He primarily wrote historical nonfiction about the Civil War, Napoleon, naval history, rockets, and World War II. So why is Fletcher Pratt listed in the Appendix N and why does he have the coveted “et al” listed after The Blue Star?

Well, digging a bit deeper into his writings and his career, it is no surprise that Gary Gygax was smitten with this fellow….

Fletcher Pratt was a bearded, bespectacled, pipe-smoking intellectual who raised marmosets in his spare time. And if you don’t know what a marmoset looks like then I highly encourage you to pause reading this to do a quick Google Image search of these adorable mini-monkeys. I promise that you won’t regret it.

APR 26 Beyond the Gate of Shadows: Harold Lamb’s The Grand Cham

“As evening closed in they were threading through gorges that hastened the coming of darkness. Often they looked back in the failing light. No one desired to be last. And then Rudolfo, in the lead, halted abruptly.

‘Before them in the twilight stood a great mound of human skulls.”

When we are first introduced to Michael Bearn, young Breton ship-master in Venetian employ, he and his shipwrecked crew are slaves to the Turkish Sultan, Bayezid the Great, ‘the Thunderbolt.’ Bearn, talented, headstrong, and proud, refuses to kneel before the conqueror, the ruler of an empire stretching from the Danube to the Euphrates, and Bearn is cruelly cowed when his arm is crushed by an iron sleeve. Crippled, brutalized, Bearn vows his revenge to the Sultan’s laughing face — and thus colossal events are set underway with the snapping of a man’s bones, and the humiliation of his soul. For Bearn is a man of immense drive and cleverness, and Bayezid is not the only great conqueror in the vast lands of the East . . .

APR 28  Adventures in Fiction: Jack Williamson by Ngo Vinh-Ho

In the storied list of Appendix N authors, there is one name that encapsulates nearly the entire course of modern American science fiction and fantasy: Jack Williamson. John Stewart Williamson was born on April 29th, 1908 in an adobe hut in what was then still the Arizona Territory. Seeking to better themselves, the Williamson family travelled by horse-drawn covered wagon to New Mexico in 1915, where Williamson recalled that they “homesteaded in Eastern New Mexico in 1916 after the good land had been claimed. We were living below the poverty line, struggling for survival.”

This isolated, hardscrabble existence continued throughout Williamson’s entire youth, but his imagination and inquisitive mind helped him to endure. As he describes, “I did a lot of farmwork—riding horses after a string of cattle, gathering the corn, that sort of thing. Working alone so often like that was naturally pretty boring, so I started creating these endless epics and fictional cycles in which I was the principal character—all this done simply as a way of keeping my mind alive.”

APR 29  Classic Covers: Jack Williamson

Few writers can boast as long and as productive a career as SF Grand Master Jack Williamson — this ‘Dean of Science Fiction’ produced scores of short stories and dozens of novels across multiple genres and series during a lifetime that saw him publish work in over eight consecutive decades. Getting his start in the era of the pulps and publishing right through until the first decade of the twenty-first century, Williamson’s style may have changed with time, but his adherence to straightforward storytelling, breakneck adventure, and uncluttered prose remained a constant over his long career.

Williamson, who became a college professor after he achieved success as a commercial writer, is credited with coining the terms ‘terraforming’ and ‘genetic engineering.’ He is possibly also the first to use the term ‘psionics’ (perhaps this was what Gary Gygax was thinking of when he listed Williamson as an influence on D&D in Appendix N?). While most associated with his numerous science fiction shorts and series (Legion of SpaceHumanoids), Williamson also wrote grounded fantasies, even horror, as with his werewolf novel, Darker Than You Think.

MAY 3 Ballantine Adult Fantasy: Ernest Bramah

An English writer with a varied bibliography ranging from humor, to dystopian science fiction, to mystery tales of the blind detective Max Carrados, Ernest Bramah achieved literary success and is still best known for his tales of itinerant Chinese storyteller, Kai Lung. Bramah’s combination of understated humor, familiarity with East Asian culture and mythology, and most especially his inspired ‘translation’ of the cadences and over-refinement of antiquely formal and courtly Chinese into a playfully whimsical English, proved not only popular with audiences, but enduringly influential for the more fantastical varieties of Asian-themed fiction penned in the West over the last hundred years.

Lin Carter chose both Kai Lung’s Golden Hours, and Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in the 1970s, and had the series continued there would have certainly been more Kai Lung available had Carter wished — for unlike many of the individual works or even specific authors Carter would reprint after decades of relative obscurity, Bramah’s Kai Lung stories have never been long out of print in over a century since their first publication.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Terra Incognita: Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure- -- Now available!

Terra Incognita:

Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure

Reposting from DMR Books (link)  
Click on the DMR link to order digital or paperback

You are holding a ticket in your hands. A ticket for a voyage of thrills, wonder, and discovery as seven of today's top fantasists, each one a master of Heroic Fantasy, transport you to lands beyond your imagination. Lands of fantasy and adventure. And the only passport needed is your imagination.

David C. Smith's courageous rebels under the leadership of the undying warrior Akram must form an alliance with an ancient race to overthrow murderous usurpers, along with their necromantic masters, who are hellbent on destroying their kingdom in an insane attempt to conquer the world.

Adrian Cole transports a group of explorers to a Lovecraftian netherworld of no return. Or is there, if one is courageous enough?

S.E. Lindberg gives us a distant world where two alien sisters, who were created in the image of man, wage a war against each other to determine the future of their world.

J. Thomas Howard reveals the harsh realities of ancient Eire, Samhain, and the war between the Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann.

Milton Davis introduces us to a young man, barely past boyhood, who has to brave great dangers on his own to seek the help of ancient allies who may no longer exist.

John C. Hocking regales with the plight of a young archivist who is forced at swordpoint to travel into a parallel world full of horrors from a time long forgotten.

Howard Andrew Jones sets sail into adventure with a group of sea-going merchants and their passengers. Many of them are not who they seem to be and only reveal their true selves once a sunken kingdom from the bottom of the sea launches an attack against the travelers.

Release date: May 2022
Trade Paperback: 9” x 6”, 222 pages, $14.99
Digital: $4.99