Thursday, February 11, 2016

recent read; The Seeds of Nightmares

The Seeds of Nightmares by Tony Tremblay

Tony Tremblay has had horror stories published in various venues, and here he collects them together with a few previously unpublished offerings to round out the book. (Some of those tales were published under his penname, T. T. Zuma, for those keeping track.)

Tony shows variety and knows how to punch with a strong ending. His strongest strength is luring a reader into the story with grounded reality and characters, supplemented with a setting of quiet horror, before he unleashes the big horror, gore and/or darkly fantastical elements.

There are thirteen stories in this collection. I'll highlight a few of my favorites.

Things start off with a bang in "The Strange Saga of Mattie Dyer" - a Weird West tale, with plenty of weird to go around. "The Old Man" delivers straight ahead noir. "The Burial Board" is another tale of old times, featuring the gruesome practice of leaving a dead family member on a wooden board during winter until the spring thaw allows burial.

"Husband of Kellie" offers a zombie tale packed with emotional punch.

"The Pawnshop", from Wicked Tales, appears here, too. I really enjoyed its blend of noir meets Twilight Zone oddness.

"Chiyoung and Dongsun's Song" features the strangest twisted folk tale romance I've ever read.

The other stories are solid, too and all worth a read.

Another fun aspect of this collection are the author's notes that preface each tale. I enjoy author notes. For some reason, I enjoy them even more for short stories collections and anthologies.

Tony Tremblay is an author in the horror realm whose work is worth keeping an eye on - and more importantly - to enjoy reading.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Cold Corner of Forgotten History

I had originally written this article as part of the short-lived revival of Rogue Blades Entertainment's blog/website. Recent actions of the Frontier Partisans made me decide to dig it out and post it here.

“Never have any of our soldiers been on American soil, but your soldiers were on Russian soil.  These are the facts.”

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made that statement during a tour of the United States in 1959, he sent people scurrying to their history books.

Lost to American history, but never forgotten by the Soviets, the Allied incursion into Russia in late 1918 set the tone of future East-West relations throughout the Cold War. Perhaps it was an embarrassment of ineffectualness – if not outright failure – that caused the American Russia expeditionary forces to be largely forgotten by American history. Or, perhaps other theaters of the Great War overshadowed and overwhelmed their actions. But memories of Allied interference in the dawn of the Red revolution fueled the Soviets’ Iron Curtain paranoia.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Where The Wild Things Are

In our town, there are some raptor cages at the back of the high school. My son attends a preschool at the high school. So, in the mornings when it's not too cold, the birds are out in the enclosures. There is a permanent resident, a Kestrel named Hayley. And, they usually rotate a larger raptor with other wildlife rehabilitators. This year we have a barred owl named Scout.

We had an exciting moment last week. As we drove around the corner, we spotted a wild Cooper's hawk, perched atop the kestrel enclosure. I joked about "cousin Coop" coming for a visit. But, I knew in reality the larger hawk was looking for a meal. Technically, Cooper's hawks are falcons - short wings, long tail and they primarily prey on other birds and even bats, sometimes. It didn't surprise me that they would go after a kestrel.

I did not want to spook away the Cooper's hawk by opening the car door, so I put down the passenger window and took an awkward photo with my cell phone.

I only had a brief glimpse but I did not see the kestrel flying around in a panic and I didn't hear any distress, though I wasn't close, either.

But hey  - neat photo and the kestrel was safe in her enclosure.

I posted this photo to the Science Center Facebook page, thinking they would enjoy it. They asked me for my phone number to ask some questions.

I got the call this morning.

Hayley the kestrel was found dead in her pen on Sunday. *sad face*

She was a healthy little bird, and now they think the hawk might have harassed her into fatally harming herself in the pen. Autopsy pending.

Before this, the only suspect was a house cat that comes around and might have induced the bird into a similar panic.

Sad, but I'm glad I could shed light on their mystery.

Monday, February 1, 2016

recent reads; The Pulp Feast of Philip Jose Farmer

Well, I went there. Yes, I did. I'd heard and read all the warnings about the graphic content, and that the sequel novels were more pulp action and probably more to my liking. But, I felt I needed to start at the start. Yes, I read Philip Jose Farmer's A Feast Unknown.

Lord Grandrith (Farmer's Tarzan pastiche with extra bits added) faces off against Doc Caliban (Farmer's Doc Savage pastiche with extra bits added) as they battle across Africa. It turns out these men are immortal, servants of "the Nine" - a world-ruling cabal. Eventually the two men learn the Nine have been orchestrating most of their lives, including the setup to kill each other.

Admittedly, predictably not my cup of tea. The sexual graphic stuff I was all right with. Other stuff I could do without. Some of it borders on "body horror" when you think about it. I felt the tone shifted from weird to snide to outright farce by the end. Pretty much rated X, for real.

Titan edition
I enjoyed Lord of the Trees more, as Farmer gave us more of a straight forward pastiche of Tarzan with his Lord Grandrith character. Seeking revenge on the Nine, Grandrith again fights his way across Africa. In some ways it felt like a re-tread of the first portion of A Feast Unknown, with the graphic content dropped. Much more of a PG-13 tone. Or even PG.

I did feel the action was repetitive, though, in and of itself. It felt like one of those novellas stretched to a short novel. I probably won't give it a re-read. I have too many original ERB Tarzan stories to read, and perhaps even Farmer's authorized pastiches of Tarzan.

Original ACE Double cover, backed with THE MAD GOBLIN
The Mad Goblin follows along the same lines. The action takes place in a German castle and village. The action occurs simultaneously with the events of Lord of the Trees, as Doc Caliban hunts down one of the Nine who has defected and is at war with both the Nine and Doc Caliban & Lord Grandrith.

The action felt more varied, here, though it also felt a touch repetitive and stretched beyond its natural length.
Original ACE Double cover
I've not read much Doc Savage, so I didn't bring any baggage to The Mad Goblin. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it the most of the three novels.

Titan reprint
Like Tarzan, I am far behind on reading original Doc Savage stories. I'd prefer that to re-reading The Mad Goblin. Aside from a 'biography' of Doc Savage, Farmer never did (or was allowed to) write an authorized Doc pastiche. Too bad.

You could probably read Lord of the Trees & The Mad Goblin without first reading A Feast Unknown. You might be missing the backstory but that wouldn't take away from the adventure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

more comic collecting; Marvel's TARZAN

This weekend, I scoured the 50 cent bins at a local comic shop. I am now two issues away from owning a complete set of Roy Thomas's & Ernie Colon's ARAK, Son of Thunder. I don't have a lot in mint, but they are all serviceable.

I've been reading the Marvel omnibus of the 1970s run of JOHN CARTER, Warlord of Mars. At the same time that was happening, Roy Thomas was working on Marvel's TARZAN, Lord of the Jungle. There were only 29 issues and 3 annuals, and they have yet to be collected in trades or an omnibus.

I picked up Annual #2 and Annual #3 this weekend. They were enough fun that I think I might just aim to collect the Marvel TARZAN run, too. Hopefully I can find them in the cheap bins, too.

Monday, January 18, 2016

recent read; Caped

Caped, edited by Ian Thomas Healy

Caped is an anthology of superhero stories. They range in tone from serious to humorous. I found every story had something to offer, and as a whole the anthology works very well. There are 18 stories. I won't go through every one (Amazon page has synopses for every story, if you're wondering.) I'll highlight some of my favorites from the bunch.

"Pinning Portugal" by Elliotte Rusty Harold
Sueprvillains learn that you can develop superweapons for fun and profit.

"Damn the Dark, Damn the Light" by K. H. Vaughan
Good story about a league of superheroes who start fraying at the edges. Some interesting supervillains in this one, too.

"Dax and the Red Eyes" by Adrienne Dellwo
This is the darkest tale of the set. A disabled child is the only one who can see the evil of his sibling.

"And Introducing the Scarlet Scrapper" by Leonard Apa
A radio actor must step up and play the real hero off-stage. Nice tribute to Golden Age radio shows.

"Dum Dum" by Leod D. Fitz
This was a delight. A bit of a block-headed, superstrong villain sits down for a prison interview. Wonderful ending.

"Heart of the Matter" by Robert J. Mendenhall
A Superman-like hero has an inoperable heart condition. Is it time to retire or go out fighting?

"Capacity Crowds" by Paul McMahon
What happens when everyone is so enamored of your heroics that no one wants to be your supervillain? Nice twist here that I don't want to give away.

"The Faces of the Wind" by Laura Lamoreaux
After World War II, superheroes are repressed by the government and searching for purpose. Think of it as The Incredibles with a serious twist for the Golden Age heroes.

"Sovereign's Last Hurrah" by David Court
The superheroes and supervillains of the past find a common goal - making their life in the nursing home bearable. Not as humorous as it sounds, it's actually a poignant tale.

Caped is a fun anthology. I enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

recent viewing; Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Justice League: Gods and Monsters was the latest release in the DC Universe Animated Original movies. It has brought Bruce Timm back into the fold after he took some time off from the franchise.

This is not your father's Justice League. It is Bruce Timm's League. One of the things that pulled him back was the opportunity to do something different. Very different. This goes beyond the usual "Elseworlds" or alternate universe ideas that have come before. We don't get skewed Bruce Waynes or alternate Clark Kents here. We get a clean slate.

Superman is the son of Zod, not the son of Jor El. He is raised in a harsh life of Mexican migrant workers, and he is Hernan Guerra, not Clark Kent. Batman is Kirk Langstrom - known in main DC continuity as the Man-Bat. Here, he is a biologically created vampire. Wonder Woman is Bekka, a lesser known New Gods character, who has exiled herself to Earth.

The Justice League operate outside of the law, with compliance from the US government. But as a mystery unfolds and the League are framed for multiple murders, the government and League alliance breaks down. The League races to find the true villain, before the violence escalates out of control.