Saturday, July 25, 2015

Be Still My Beating Heart! I've Gone "Madder"

Be Still My Beating Heart! I've Gone "Madder"

washed madder roots from Seabury Court, Ohio
No, that's not a heart! It's just a bunch of red roots. This follows a slow churning quest to make my own natural paints (starting ~2011, see other links below),  In 2012, Heidi and I planted some madder, which required 3+ years to grow. 

Out patches' roots have grown quite thick, and the thicker the more red you can make them.  Our alkaline soil helps the color too.  In any event, it's 2015 already, so it was time to harvest some roots.  Doing so kills a portion of an invasive patch, so that's good for maintenance anyway.

What's next? 

Most folks use madder roots to dye fabric....and my mom may convince me to dye some of her alpaca wool, and Heidi will push me to dye some scarf.... but I planned to make red pigments.  To make pigments, I'll use a similar approach to dying: i.e. use the mordant called alum (Potassium Sulfate) as a base ... i.e. I'll dye the powder usually used to bind the dye to fabric (to make a lacca, or lake-pigment, which differs from pigments that have dispersed particles with their own natural color); alternatively, I can mince the roots into a fine powder, then disperse that into a liquid carrier.  

Luckily madder roots is not toxic (some dyes are) and can be dried for later use. There are plenty of fine resource/recipes available, as per my 2011 posts (though I have since become a fan of Jenny Dean too).     

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Doctors in Hell– A honed recipe of Human Habits and Myths (Review By S.E.)

Doctors in Hell (Heroes in Hell Book 18)Doctors in Hell by Janet Morris
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doctors in Hell is the 18th in the long running Heroes in Hell series, each installment being a different theme. “Doctors” has 14 short stories plus an excerpt (a sequel of sorts to one entry, and a prelude to a novel). First-time hell readers can feel comfortable jumping into Doctors, since it works as a stand-alone book as well a series entry. Beware, hell is a seductive force and the book a gateway (this was my first full adventure but now I have committed myself to more since I have now bought five previous installments). Here are basic expectations of the series from my fresh perspective:

(1) Human Behavior persists: The dead do not need sustenance nor drink, and all the food tastes bad (i.e. like vomit), but inhabitants habitually eat/drink anyway despite the displeasure. “Real people” copy their initial lives in hell.

(2) Our gods and hell exist: Various gods from history battle to maintain some ideal flux/condition of souls; in “Doctors” the Akkadian plague god has descended from heaven to ensure hell is sufficiently undesirable, casting additional illnesses upon the dead … and messing with Satan’s control of hell.
Part of hell’s nature ensured that it metamorphosed to suit those it incarcerated. All societies created the hell they deserved, if left to their own devices. And the devil moderated the creation of the New Dead’s societies, so that no one group took power, intent on preserving the balance that made the underverse an equally uneasy resting place for history’s manifold modern damned. – from THE WAGER by J. Morris and C. Morris

(3) Unbounded Time: Time is nonlinear and infinite, so individuals from various centuries are often paired or pitted against one another. Where else can Attila the Hun and Napoleon Bonaparte join forces against armies of rats and Vietcong?

(4) Resurrections: If one dies again in hell, then an entity called the Undertaker will resurrect the individual and “reassign” it to another life – so “death” is not a way out, and the process is painful.
“He’s still there. What’s wrong with Reassignments? He should have disappeared by now.” “Maybe they’re overwhelmed,” Wellington offered. “So many deaths. Even the Undertaker must be up to his malformed eyebrows in bodies.” –from MEMORY by N. Asire

“I do not understand. These men are dead! They should be on the Undertaker’s slab waiting for recycling,” from HELL NOON by P.Freeman
(5) Titular theme: Each book has a theme as per the title that focuses each anthology and makes them stand alone; however story arcs and characters do carry from volume to volume, so the more one reads the more one enjoys.

(6) Varied content: Each author demonstrates freedom to explore the titular theme, with their own style and genre. This collection has classic myths, western shoot outs, zombie apocalypse, comedy, a military sortie, and police drama… and somehow all the mix feels very consistent.

Highlights: I enjoyed the whole set, but in particular five resonated with me, seemed more stand alone or tailored to a new-HIH reader, demonstrated hell’s operation explicitly, and fully embraced the “doctors” theme.

The Wager by Janet E. Morris and Christopher Morris (heroic myth): The initial story sets the stage for the book, economically capturing the tone of previous stories, the purpose of this tome, and the delivering an entertaining tale of Satan and the angel Altos. The Morris’s have a knack for writing heroic fantasy, and true to form, they deliver again. This made me feel guilty about being an armchair, video-game general.

What Price Oblivion by Rob Hinkle (horror) : Con-man Charles Braggs (known as Doc in life since he had a skill of ‘skinning suckers’ was as sharp as any surgeon’s) gets his murderous due. Without spoiling, I’ll highlight a line that I cannot get out of my head: “Why do you keep doing this to me?” This story showed the Undertaker’s role vividly.

Pavlovian Slip by Bill Snider (comedy): Utterly hilarious depiction of psychologists Ivan Pavlov and Sigmund Freud, struggling to reason why humans have habitual behavior and the consequences for that in hell. The philosophical undertones strengthen the commentary greatly. Saturated with dark humor.

Hell on a technicality by Joe Bonadonna (comedy): Ah, another hilarious blend: this time a death panel (inducing Aristotle and Da Vinci) convenes to discuss the nature of the soul and body in the preposterous case of Doctor Victor Frankenstein, who has had his brain switched with his creature Adam’s. So now Victor’s mind finds itself in his creation’s body… and vice versa. How else better to discuss the nature of a soul in hell then to work out this mess. The death panel erupts into an outrageous furor.

Convalescence by Michael H. Hanson (zombie horror) : This reads as a homage to Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, one of my favorites. Here we have Calamity Jane as a nurse in one of hell’s retirement homes. A zombie horde surrounds the home while a “Strawberry Ball” masquerade event is held. The colored rooms, impending doom, and costumes are very Red Death-like; of course, Poe’s Mask of the Red Death involved a cureless plague and the inevitability of death to good measure, so echoing in “Doctors” is perfect.

Other Grim Stories: The other stories are all worthy in their own right, some catering to readers of previous books like Poets in Hell and Lawyers in Hell (Memory, In The Shadowlands, The Cure & Writer’s Block, and Let Us Kill The Spirit of Gravity), there are two western motifs (The Right Man for the Job, and Hell Noon), and a 1920’s pairing of Elliot Ness versus lobotomist Walter Jackson Freeman II (The Judas Book). Last of note, there is Grim who’s character is a genuine reaper allowed to leave hell on a sortie to retrieve an escapee early in the collection; the last entry A Moment of Clarity is an excerpt from the forthcoming Heroes in Hell novel called “Hell Bound” – this excerpt extends the initial story and prepares the reader for more in a dedicated novel.

Highly recommended for readers of dark, historic, or heroic fantasy.

THE WAGER - Janet E. Morris and Christopher Morris
THE CURE - Christopher Morris
GRIM - Andrew P Weston
MEMORY - Nancy Asire
IN THE SHADOWLANDS - Richard Groller
CONVALESCENCE - Michael H. Hanson
HELL NOON - Paul Freeman
THE JUDAS BOOK -Jack William Finley
WRITER’S BLOCK - Janet E. Morris and Christopher Morris
A MOMENT OF CLARITY Excerpt - Andrew P Weston

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Death Panel Explains Why Going To Hell Is Welcome At Anytime (Doctors in Hell roundtable interview)

Death Panel: (center) Janet E Morris; (top) Jack William Finley, Chris Morris; 
(middle) Bill Snider, Nancy Asire; Joe Bonadonna;
(bottom) Andrew Paul Weston, Richard Groller

Death Panelists, when is it O.K. to go to hell?

Some authors from the Doctors in Hell anthology convened for a death panel to decide your fate. Your affliction needing help?  Well, you heard about the recent release of this book but realized it is #18 in the Heroes in Hell series... is it okay to jump in now?   You are a bit timid to jump into death, so why not have the tour guides explain your worries away?  Below is a FAQ with common answers highlighted!

DIH authors (death panelists indicated with initials): Janet E. Morris (JEM), Chris Morris (CM), Andrew Paul Weston (APW), Nancy Asire (NA), R.E. Hinkle, Richard Groller (RG), Matthew Kirshenblatt, Bill Snider (BS), Joe Bonadonna (JB), Paul Freeman, and Jack William Finley (JWF)

Click here for my review of the book.

FAQ about Hell for new readers (click to jump-to answers): 

1. What is the general premise of the Heroes in Hell series?

JEM:  Hell really exists.  There were 613 original commandments, binding on every living soul even if they aren't Christians or Jews, and ignorance is no excuse:  break one and you go to hell.  So everybody does, almost: everybody who was anybody broke some commandment or other while on earth.  And here they are, sometimes in a part of hell where they belong, sometimes where they don't.  The wort and best from all of time make the same mistakes in hell that got them here:  character is destiny, Topside or throughout the Underverse.

RG: Bangsian Fantasy of the highest order - Hell is a real place where characters continue to live their lives. They come from across the length and breadth of time and history to interact. You can have Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Genghis Khan at the same table having a conversation. All of time and history is your palette - what incredible pictures can be made with the right imagination. What adventures can be wrought, while suffering the torments of a well-deserved damnation? As a backdrop for virtually any philosophical, social, political or sociological interactions, to include re-fighting wars and re-imagining history, Hell is the certainly the laboratory of the mind.

NA: It seems nearly everyone who has ever lived ends up in hell, no matter the time of their life or death.  In Satan’s hell, operating on Judeo/Christian laws and dictates, there are over 600 commandments that can be broken, even if the sinner has no knowledge the specific commandment existed.  In the other hells, ruled over by their various gods, the punishments meted out may or might not resemble those of Satan’s hell.  Naturally, whoever ends up in hell is punished by any means, from eternal frustration to actual torture and death.  In Satan’s hell, death is hardly permanent since the soul is reconstituted and returned to its hellish existence for further torment.  The series deals with various characters and their responses to their damnation.

2. What flavor of Hell/Afterlife is in scope (Valhalla? Naraka? Hades? Duat? Jahannam? Dante’s?)?

BS: This Hell, encompasses all Hells, Dantean, Jungian, Abrahamic, Babylonian, Eastern - if there was a designation for a Hell, then the Heroes In Hell series can include it.  There is no Hell too big, or too small to fit within these halls; hallowed as they may not be, they can all fit amongst those who dance to the tunes that are sung by those who continue to fall.  Hell is not just a place name, it's where we keep our notions of who we are and where we are destined to end up, should we ever be so inclined as to journey there.

APW: It’s whatever flavor takes your fancy. That’s the wonderful thing about the shared universe aspect, hell has many layers and circles, and they morph and transmute into whatever’s required to ensure its denizens or new arrivals suffer. As the saying goes...If you’re in need, the underworld knows and will ensure you plead before you bleed :)

CM: All the below (above). As well as the classic hells of literature Hell is comprised of hells as numerous as its residents. What makes hell so fascinating is that everybody – readers and writers and characters alike – bring some idea what the hot place is like. Often we follow souls who presume their hell experience will be informed or shaped by their peculiar racial or religious or social expectations, only to have their preconceptions painfully turned against them. So all hells imaginable, and some that beggar imagination, are on tap and ready to serve multitudes of hapless penitents as well as more deserving transgressors.

 3. Doctors in Hell is #18 in the series… should I start with this?

JB: Of course you can. I think it’s a lovely place to start your season in Hell. When I first jumped into the original Baen Books series (now out-of-print) I started after the first few volumes and had no problem riding along. And when Perseid Press rebooted the series in 2011 with all new editions and all new stories, I started with “Rogues in Hell” which was published after the first book, “Lawyers in Hell.” Then I read the third edition, “Dreamers in Hell” before going back to read “Lawyers in Hell.” By then I felt comfortable and familiar enough to write for “Poets in Hell,” and now “Doctors in Hell.” Got all that? Like I said earlier, each volume is pretty much stand-alone and any place you enter Hell is a good starting point. Just jump in and hang on.

JEM: Welcome to Hell. Want to start with Doctors in Hell?  Go right ahead: you'll meet new characters, Andrew Weston's Grim and the man who might once have been Jack the ripper...  The first two stories will orient you, as they always do.  If you want more of Shakespeare and Marlowe, read Dreamers and Poets.  If you're curious about Erra and the Sibitti, read Lawyers and Rogues.  We never numbered the volumes in the 20th century at Baen; we've stopped numbering them now.  Everyone knows enough about hell to quickly become oriented.  If you fall in love with Bat Masterson...  he appears in Lawyers, Rogues, Dreamers, Poets, and Doctors -- come to think of it, those are ALL the 21st century shared universe books.  If you crave a 21st century Heroes in Hell novel, read Michael Armstrong's Bridge Over Hell.  Or go right from Doctors in Hell to the forthcoming Hell Bound, where Andrew Weston's Reaper and Dr. Cream will scary you silly.

NA: I believe it is best to start with Lawyers (#13).  The series, Heroes in Hell, was resurrected with Lawyers and gives a good start to the neophyte reader.  The hellscapes are laid out, the rules governing the hells set forth, and the major characters are introduced, along with their backgrounds and why, despite their confusion and outright denial as to being eternally damned, they respond to the various levels of torture.  Life in New Hell City and environs shows how various levels of damnation are experienced, how serving (for example) Satan in various capacities, grants certain individuals a hellish existence far above that suffered by other souls.  The following anthologies will be easier to dive into given exposure to the events in Lawyers

BS: There is the modern incarnation, and there is the classic incarnation: The modern starts with Lawyers in Hell (book 13) and provides the starting point of the reboot of perdition.  The classic sets a stage bright and shiny and full of possibilities for mayhem.  However, all that being said as that has already been read, each book is well suited to standing alone, as the stories draw their own power, from that which is written from the bone.

4. How stand-alone are these themed issues?

JWF: As a rule of thumb, I’d liken the series to a TV series in that each story stands one it’s on like a TV episode but are loosely link and more or less chronological so you can start anywhere but you get a bit of a bonus if you start early and read things in order. You don’t have to do that to enjoy it or to get it, but it had to things if you do. On the other hand you won’t be totally lost if you don’t.

JB: Each volume is pretty complete. Unlike many other shared-world series, the books in the “Heroes in Hell” saga were “designed” to be novels written by diverse hands. While storylines may continue from one volume to another, each book stands on its own. Plots and storylines change from book to book, but more often than not our main characters are always on stage, although we do introduce new characters from time to time. In “Doctors in Hell,” we are now dealing with plagues ravaging throughout Hell, sent from Heaven Above to further punish the Damned. The premise/theme is laid out in the first two stories, written by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. From there, we contributing authors each write stories about what happens to our characters and how they deal with this infernal epidemic. The beauty of this series is that there is no death in Hell: the Damned are already dead. However, should a character be “killed” in Hell, he or she ends up in the Mortuary, where Hell’s Undertaker may do a little fiendish make-over on them before sending them back out in to Hell. This is called Reassignment.

CM: Hell’s themes are stand-alone only in that they provide a story arc or for a volume’s spectrum of stories, a way of wrangling our writers’ ideas and focus into a collection of tales that cohere as a group due to attention paid by all to the title “theme,” in this case “Doctors.” But a story’s doctor could be any ol’ doc, like Doc Holliday, Dr. Schweitzer, Pasteur, Freud, Teller…hmmm. And of course we’re bound to have a doc or two in any of the other Hell volumes, so the themes aren’t constraining but meant to be helpful to our contributors who might need a little push.

RG: That depends entirely on the author and whether or not they are following a long term or short term story arc or are writing a stand-alone story. Some of us have written within several arcs simultaneously, so our stories will touch upon events that occur over several volumes, while others might write a story meant to only coincide with events in a single volume. Some borrow existing characters with permission of the creators and interweave them with their own characters and have either dialog or story background to talk to key "theme related" events.  My Doctors in Hell story is actually a long arc story.  Its genesis was in Crusaders in Hell (Heroes in Hell #5 back in 1987) where Janet and Chris Morris wrote a story entitled "The Nature of Hell" about time perturbations in Hell. I borrowed some characters, added new, and picked up a story arc which at the time no other Hell author had chosen to write within (besides Janet and Chris). This culminated in "Island Out of Time" in Lawyers in Hell, "BDA" in Rogues in Hell, and "In The Shadowlands" in Doctors in Hell. The stories in Lawyers and Rogues would up generating a series of other short stories by other authors who then chose to write within the time perturbation arc.

5. Should I expect elves, orcs, or wizard schools?

APW: Definitely not. This is a walk on the twisted and positively maniacal side of life. And while you might find dark humor from time to time, it’s the kind that will chew you up, spit you out, and split its sides laughing as you burn. NOT the place for pixies, elves, or schools for aspiring wizards.

JB: To paraphrase a good friend of mine: “Oh, no, my Precious. We don’t wants no filthy elves, no stinkin’ orcses, and no slimy schools for hateful wizards. No, we do not.”

No elves!
CM; Expect demons of many sorts, waiting to seize upon the frailties, fears, lusts, foibles and passions of the countless teeming damned. Satan has legions of demons. These monstrous agents of damnation are exquisitely conceived and designed for the task at hand and embody – and disembody on occasion – whatever elements will leverage the Infernal agenda. Satan’s delight however is to elicit and expose demons lurking within the most unassuming souls, once more to underscore and demonstrate the inferiority of Creation’s proudest achievement – man.

JWF: No. Think something a lot more like The Outer Limits or Twilight Zone than your standard epic fantasy. I think Speculative Fiction is much more accurate than fantasy in this case, a lot of thought provoking stuff, more art film than summer block buster. There are quite a few mythic heroes sprinkled here and there but the standard is historical figures, a Wold Newton/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen sort of thing leaning far more heavily on real life historical figures rather than fictional ones.

Gustave Dore - Inferno
RG: No. Orcs or elves by definition would not be allowed unless perhaps Satan is creating them Golem-like to torment some poor wretch who perhaps has a phobia. But not a as characters. Fantasy characters of someone else's creation do no belong in hell. Hell is for all the inhabitants of history. Characters from traditional religious imagery (i.e. devils, demons, angels, archangels, etc.) are fair game, to include mythological creatures. You have Old Dead and New Dead. New Dead are from the more modern eras. Old Dead include ancient Greeks, Norse, Egyptian, etc. and all the Hellish visions and creatures extant from those cultures. The Damned get the Hell they deserve. Perhaps a wizard school if it existed in history. But not Hogwarts. In my story "BDA" we had the Gnostic Catholic Church of Hell, Aleister Crowley's order of magick practioners from the Ordo Templi Orientis, in Hell continuing their search for the Summun Bonum or "Great Work".

BS: Expect what will be, nothing less, nor nothing more.  Expect demons, devils, creatures of mayhem, dark imaginations, corners of the void that never hath seen the sprinkle of day's light, nor the balm of air unburnt by Hell's own infernal machinations.  This is not your mommy's world of fantasy; this is Hell, and tonight, we dine on gore.

6. By movie standards, is this rated PG-13, R, or something else?

BS: Well, as it is an anthology series, it's a bit of all three.  Some stories are not so spluttery, not so daring; and some will leave your eyes and jaws wildly staring!  The things we do in Hell, are something we've come here to tell; it's a variety of stories, with a little bit of skin, and a whole lot of sin.  Truth be told, the overall game is bold, and the Devil is in the details along with his vicious hold.  So, to answer the riddle, to give it a giggle, the answer is … yes.

JWF: Probably something else, but not much that’s so hard “R” or NC-17 that it’s likely to scare anyone off. You take 15-20 writers and give all of them more or less free reign within the setting as long as they tell a good story it can be hard to label or give a general rating to things. The only thing I remember being told was not to be gratuitous, if the story calls for violence or for something to be gruesome then do that but only because the story requires it. There isn’t much visceral-for-visceral-sake. It’s very much a story-first environment, let the story affect the readers. If it needs a lot of flashy violence or graphic content that’s not inherently necessary to tell a give story, it’s probably not going to meet the quality standard. If the story needs that to work it’s patched on like a badly made quilt, it’s not a very good story. Not all stories work for all people, that’s just the nature of the beast, but they do maintain a pretty high quality standard around here.

NA: If the movie is true to the series, I can’t imagine it would be rated anything but an R.  There is enough bloodshed, sexuality, torture and other unsavory happenings to keep it from being rated PG-13.  I might be old school, granting that most kids who can attend a PG-13 movie have probably seen more blood and guts that I did when I was their age.  It would, of course, depend on how exact the movie representation followed the events in the series’ short stories.  Graphic blood, torture and the like might be a bit too much for a PG-13, but kids these days have seen movies that seem to delight in gratuitous violence.

7. Authors, recall when you when you first experienced this Hell – what advice can you draw from that to aid new readers?

BS: Depth, breadth, scope of the working environment - the stories, the variety, the characters available to play with, but brief pitter patters through the historical course, there are no limits to the directions that one can fly; no end to the imagination, no blinders for one's inner eye.  The canvas upon which to write, is writ from a panoply of possibilities, a paragon of potential that the ends of the underworld stretches from one mind thought to another, with no end possible, as imagination never reaches its end, until after it has done so.

APW: I did my homework. This is a well-established and critically acclaimed universe. It has rules. There are certain things characters can do, and other things they can’t. There are gray areas that can be stretched. Keep that in mind as you begin to read and venture into the mire. And of course, as you wade deeper, try to spot how the various characters and story lines add value to the overall whole. I know from experience this is what the contributors try to do, as it helps the Heroes in Hell universe to remain fresh as it evolves along new and exciting paths.

8. A special message from Satan herself: A brief history of Heroes in Hell

JEM:  Heroes in Hell, the series, didn't seem at first like a threat to my life as I'd known it -- but let me warn you, hell changes lives and stretches souls. The first volumes, done in the 20th century for Baen Books, seemed like a great place to get out your aggression and frustrations: your hell story could be as dark as you liked, you could set it in any historical hell from any culture, or in our "melting pot" of New Hell.  We had a helluva good time.  Two stories (one from Heroes in Hell and one from Rebels in Hell) were Nebula Award finalists in the same year; one of those two subsequently won a Hugo award.  Then the trouble really began...  I stopped doing these, and let the century turn.  I forgot how all-consuming hell can be. In the 21st century, I rebooted Hell:  a new take on hell for a new century, some writers from the old series, mostly new talent.  You could write or read these without having read the 20th century books. All hell books stand alone atop your own psyche's view of immortality.  They still do.  Start anywhere; the cohesion in each volume makes it stand alone.  If you want to start with Lawyers in Hell, when the re-boot began, do that.  Or start with Doctors in Hell:  read hell forward or backward or upside down -- it's still hell.  It still unsettles minds and makes hearts skip beats.  Have fun, walking on hell's wild side.

"Hell really exists."

Friday, July 10, 2015

Seeking Revenge - Blackgate Reviews Lords of Dyscrasia

Some snippets from Black Gate's post on Sunday, May 24th, 2015 | Posted by author Joe Bonadonna, entitled Seeking Revenge Against the Shades of the Dead: S.E. Lindberg’s Lords of Dyscrasia:
"S.E. Lindberg is an original voice in fantasy. His prose is lush and colorful, and his style leans toward that of classic literature, without being stilted, self-conscious or pretentious....
...this is a complex and well-written novel, very difficult to describe. The settings and the atmosphere are rich in color and texture, and story’s pace is almost relentless: it rushes along like a bullet train, with very few stops along the way. Although Lysis Endeken is the main character, it is the weird and wonderful Doctor Grave who really rises above all others.
...a wondrous reading experience. I believe this is Lindberg’s first novel, and it’s an impressive one. He knows what he’s doing, and I have a feeling that he’s grown as a writer, and has mastered the art of pace, dialogue and character since this book was published four years ago.
...Lindberg is the real deal, a gifted writer with a strong command of language, and a soaring talent that stretches beyond the verbal: he illustrates his novel with his own wild and weird and excellent drawings. If you like action-packed dark fantasy with bizarre settings, an original premise and clever twist, then add this one to your Must Read List."

Seeking Revenge Against the Shades of the Dead: S.E. Lindberg’s Lords of Dyscrasia

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Nictzin Dyalhis's Weird Fiction -Pulp Soup for the Soul; A Doorway into Another Dimension!

The Golden Age of Weird Fiction MEGAPACK TM, Vol. 4: Nictzin DyalhisThe Golden Age of Weird Fiction MEGAPACK TM, Vol. 4: Nictzin Dyalhis by Nictzin Dyalhis
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Soup for the Soul; A Doorway into Another Dimension!
“If only there were some other road out—a door, for example, into the hypothetical region of four dimensions…it certainly couldn’t be worse there than what I’d borne in the last three years. Well, I could try… I seated myself cross-legged on the floor. If I concentrated hard enough, perhaps the miracle might occur…at least I should have tried…a last resort… Gradually a vague state ensued wherein I was not unconscious, for I still knew that I was I: yet a queer detachment was mine—there was a world, but of it I was no longer a part…” Sapphire Siren, N. Dyalhis 1934

Unearthed Weirdness:Nictzin Dyalhis wrote weird fiction during the Pulp Fiction era (~1920-1940)—before the genres of High Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi differentiated themselves. Nictzin Wilstone Dyalhis (1873 – 1942) was an American chemist. His awesome name is real. According to Conover’s obituary (as explained by Sam Moskowitz’s essay in Echoes of Valor III): ‘“Nictzin” was of Mexican Indian origin translated as “Flow of Youth,” and the last name was Scott-Irish from the Roman god “Flamen Dialis,” believed to be the source of the later names of Dallas and Douglas.’

Today Dyalhis's name and work is more obscure, but his style well represents the mash-up of the weird-fiction genre. The soup of weird ingredients seldom complement each other as well as they do in this volume. Karl Edward Wagner's 1991 anthology Echoes of Valor III that has three stories by Nictzin Dyalhis and as I was reading these obscure tales, I learned from the Sword and Sorcery group that this MEGAPACK was just released (April 2015). This one has seven stories (6 from Weird Tales and 1 from Adventure), and is a steal at $0.99 (Kindle, 2015 price).
1) THE SEA-WITCH - Weird Tales, December 1937 (Past-Future Life Adventure)
2) HEART OF ATLANTAN - Weird Tales, September 1940 (Past-Future Life Adventure)
3) THE ETERNAL CONFLICT - Weird Tales, October 1925 (Past-Future Life Adventure)
4) THE RED WITCH Originally - Weird Tales, April 1932 ((Past-Future Life Adventure / Sword & Sorcery)
5) THE SAPPHIRE SIREN - Weird Tales, February 1934. (Sword & Sorcery)
6) WHEN THE GREEN STAR WANED - Weird Tales, April 1925 (Sci-Fi / Horror)
7) FOR WOUNDING—RETALIATION - Adventure, November 20 1922 (Adventure)

Weird, Genre Mash-ups:
The first five stories are various twists on the same premise: reincarnation/past-lives are real phenomenon; and everyday humans get embroiled with ghosts, gods, and aliens anxious to tell tales and seek vengeance. Trippy sequences make apparitions tangible in real life, and send our protagonists into dreamy alternative realms. Dyalhis was enough of a chemist to infuse his knowledge of electromagnetic radiation into his creatures, magic, and sci-fi technology; he does this in most all his stories. Expect a great mix. There are “lost worlds” here, and dwarves with axes (not the fairy tale type, and decades before J.R.R. Tolkien), and there are Star-Trek-like sorties from Vehnuz (Venus) to Aerth (aka Earth) that pits humans against pudding-like Lovecraft creatures (written after Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars series), but still decades before space travel); there is even a Sword and Sorcery tale that takes our hero to a realm that is actually the incarnation of the emotion Hate.

Below are some quote to capture the breadth of experiences. Highly recommended for adventure fans:

THE RED WITCH reincarnation / dream fascination:
“Is there a past, a present, and a future; or are they in reality all the same state, being merely differing phases of the same eternal “Now”? Are our lives and deaths and the interludes between them naught but illusion; and are we ever the same beings, yet capable, even though we do not recognize the fact, of experiencing two or more states of consciousness of personal identity…”

THE SAPPHIRE SIREN Horror example:
"Hovering over me, holding me in her arms, shielding and protecting me from further harm, was a superbly beautiful woman. Azure was her hair, blue as the midsummer skies was her shimmering skin that shone with a clear luster surpassing any gem; yet in nowise was she a stone statue, but a living, breathing, loving, tender, soft-bodied woman of flesh and blood! I reached up feeble arms about her neck, drawing her down to me—almost had her lips touched mine—a lambent reddish light flickered momentarily in her wondrous blue eyes— “You infernal hag!” It was but a putrid corpse I held so lovingly within the circle of my arms—and in it the worms and maggots were acrawl!… The Princess of Hell, on her gorgeous throne, gave utterance to a trill of merry laughter at the success of that final glamorous torment..."
WHEN THE GREEN STAR WANED Lovecraftian aliens!
"They had faces, and they had not faces! They had forms and they were formless! How may I describe that which baffles description? We are accustomed to concrete, cohesive, permanent types of form and faces, and these were inchoate!"

THE ETERNAL CONFLICT – Hate made real, and electromagnetic magic!
"Hate is one of the lowest of the emotions. And the lower phases are invariably denser than are the higher ones. Apparently hate is a creative force, in its own plane…."

"All that differentiates one thing from other things throughout all the universe is—vibratory rate! …"

"The color changed, as I drew nearer, changed from an indeterminate tinge to a wondrous ruby red—inexpressibly soul-comforting, if I may use such a word. But, as I drew still closer, it shifted to a tender azure blue. No! It was clear topaz! Why, it was emerald—violet—orange—cerise—it had no color—it was of all colors—it was color! Color well-nigh celestial; and over me crept a strange reverence and awe…."

"Against us they launched whirling spirals and vortices of scarlet and crimson fires; flares of sulfurous blues and yellows; jets and gouts and splashes of flames of all colors, but all shaded with dark impurity; foul with wrath and malice and all indecency. There came, ever and again, gusts of fetid odors; blasts of stifling, mephitic vapors of green and leaden and purple; and thick, black clouds, filthy, revolting to touch and smell; shot, through with jagged sizzling darts and streaks of hell’s own essence—which is a vibration indescribable to earthly concept."

View all my reviews

Friday, July 3, 2015

Blackgate raves about Heroika: Dragon Eaters

Blackgate raves about Heroika: Dragon Eaters!

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh
"I’m happy to report that with all that buildup, it’s a terrific bunch of stories... 
The stories, and there are seventeen of them, are presented chronologically — well, the ones set in the real world anyway. Those set in more fantastical settings are fit in among the medieval ones. In the earliest tales dragons stand toe-to-toe with the gods. Slowly, they lose that stature and become mere monsters. Deadly, true, but no longer forces of raw, elemental chaos. Eventually they’re regarded only as mythical. In the future, scientific explanations have to be found for their existence.... 
I’m excited to see so many stories, so many of them quite good, together in on place. I’m a fan of anthologies and there aren’t enough of them for my tastes. We've all read that fantasy readers only want long novels and that not enough people buy anthologies. Janet Morris has done a great job and is to be commended for taking a chance and getting this out before the public."

17 dragons, hunted by separate authors across as many centuries.  Here's what Fletcher says about my contribution:

“Legacy of the Great Dragon” by S.E. Lindberg moves forward into ancient Egypt, as Thoth, physician of the gods, helps Horus to find power to avenge the death of his father, Osiris, at the hands of Set. This is a wild piece, with a cosmically huge dragon and gods fighting inside of it. 

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters edited by Janet Morris

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Heroika Roundtable - hosted by author Terry Ervin

Roundtable Discussion with 4 Dragon Hunters (link)

Terry W. Ervin II is an Ohio-based author (like myself) who writes fantasy and science fiction and is an English teacher by day. He recently hosted four of the 17 authors (a.k.a. dragon hunters) from Heroika: Dragon Eaters. A paperback giveaway is in progress via Goodreads (see below). For now, please join the discussion and learn more about the art of killing serpents!

4-of-17 Dragon Hunters:

A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’.

Mark Finn is a fantasy and science fiction, essayist, and playwright. He is recognized as an authority on the Texas author Robert E. Howard and has written extensively on that subject.In 2007 he was nominated for World Fantasy Special Award: Professional.

Seth (S.E.) Lindberg lives near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist by day. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword & Sorcery genre, spurs him to write graphic adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors.  

He co-moderates a Goodreads- Sword & Sorcery Group and invites you to participate.  

Cas Peace is a fantasy and non-fiction writer from the UK. She’s also a singer/songwriter, horse-riding instructor, cactus grower, and dog lover.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dragon Eaters by Janet E. Morris

Dragon Eaters

by Janet E. Morris

Giveaway ends July 21, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway