"Evacuate? In our moment of triumph?"
In 1977 Peter Cushing personified evil for me with his performance as the cold, calculating Grand Moff Tarkin in the first Star Wars movie. Futura Publications Unlimited released this book a year after that film's release, no doubt capitalizing on Cushing's increased fame as a villain in the blockbuster. What I didn't know at the time (as a lad of three years) was that Cushing had achieved considerable fame as the star of several Hammer films. Those were way ahead of me in 1978, but I'm sure I would have noticed this book immediately.
I mean, it's Tarkin's favorite horror stories. Who wouldn't want to check that out?
The book contains:
How I Became a Monster Hunter; by Peter Cushing
The Masked Ball; by Alexandre Dumas
The Mortal Immortal; by Mary Shelley
Dracula's Guest; by Bram Stoker
In the Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman; by Josef Nesvadba
The Ring of Thoth; by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Gorgon; by Gertrude Bacon
The Man Who Collected Poe; by Robert Bloch
The Ghoul of Golders Green; by Michael Arlen
There Shall Be No Darkness; by James Blish
That's a remarkably literate list from an actor, until you realize that Cushing didn't actually choose the stories. That duty seems to have fallen to legendary British anthologist Peter Haining, whose fingerprints are all over my library in the form of dozens of anthologies on diverse subjects. Haining died about a year ago, but not before releasing scores of anthologies featuring rare stories and overlooked gems. Regretfully, I have not yet had a chance to read the stories in this volume. I'm particularly interested in the Stoker, Conan Doyle, and Nesvadba offerings, as I'd never heard of any of them before picking this up last winter.
Crossposted to Paperback Flash
Here's the 1968 Popular Library reprint of Henry Kuttner's 1940 Startling Stories
novel, A Million Years to Conquer
. It's interesting to compare this image by legendary cover artist Frank Frazetta with the interior opening spread from the pulp, which I presented in the last post.
All in all, this isn't one of the strongest Frazetta covers in my collection, which is another reason why it didn't exactly leap to the top of the Henry Kuttner pile (and believe me, that's quite a pile in my library!).
The Creature of the title is sort of the villain of the piece. I say sort of because what's really going on is that people get crazy irradiated and kill everything they touch, and this is connected to Ardath and his alien people, as mentioned in the previous post. And while the irradiated people become monstrous in aspect, the actual villain of the piece is one of the super-humans Ardath has harvested for his long-term genetics project.
I don't know if "The Creature from Beyond Infinity" was a reversion to an original title changed by Startling Stories
or a new title from someone at Popular Library (which seems likely, as Kuttner was dead by the time the paperback version came out), but either way I think "A Million Years to Conquer" is a better and more fitting title.
Decent cover on this one, though. Everybody loves elephants, right?
Crossposted to Paperback Flash
, my vintage book and magazine collecting blog.
This is the cover illustration for the November 1940 edition of Startling Stories
, which contains the novel A Million Years to Conquer
, by Henry Kuttner. I picked up this issue on my initial sweep of Kuttner novels a few years ago, when looking for stories to reprint in Paizo's Planet Stories fiction line. I bought it because (to my knowledge), it had never been reprinted.
Turns out I was wrong. In 1968, Popular Library re-issued the story with a new title, The Creature from Beyond Infinity
, complete with a cover from legendary artist Frank Frazetta. At some point the story appears to have fallen into the public domain, and is fairly easily available online. I'll get around to showing off that cover in the next few days.
Essentially, the novel was about this guy:
Old Ardath is the last survivor of an alien crash landing on Earth. He will be able to leave and repopulate his super-advanced civilization, but to do so he needs humans at the very top of their evolutionary peers. So he flies his space ship into orbit, from whence he periodically descends to kidnap super-awesome humans from various points in history. Like this:
I finally polished off the story on a recent trip to London, when I powered through five Kuttner novels over about a week and a half. This one turned out to be the turkey of the bunch, and although it has some fun points it doesn't even come close to Kuttner's finest offerings. Perhaps the effect was obvious because I read it in the same week I read The Mask of Circe
, Valley of the Flame
, and The Time Axis
, but there you have it. On the other hand, the book was about 50 times better than the sorry POS that followed it (Frank Belknap Long's It Was the Day of the Robot
, so all was not lost.
The Startling Stories
cover was painted by Earle Bergey, a mainstay of the magazine who nearly always painted a "good girl" image, so this cover is something of a departure. I actually prefer it to the Frazetta cover on the '68 reprint, but then again I'm a sucker for the old stuff.
.Crossposted to Paperback Flash, my book and pulp-collecting blog.
Happy New Year, everyone!
I just posted what should probably be last month's column to my EN World blog, entitled "Whitley "Whitt" Whittaker and Erik's Glass Jaw". It's about our ongoing office Call of Cthulhu campaign and my first real brush with PC death.
It turns out I can dish it out a lot better than I can take it.
But I'm learning my lessons and plotting my sweet, sweet revenge. Check it out and let me know what you think!
It's been a hell of a year for me, so this year's Christmas Serge icon shows the great French musician heading into his long, slow decline, Gitane cigarette in hand, hunched forward, sliding into oblivion. Which is kind of how I've felt (minus the French cigarettes) for much of the past year.
There's really no reason for it. My business, Paizo Publishing, has had its most successful year ever. The major book release we put out this year (the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
) is still at this point the #1
roleplaying game book on Amazon.com, a spot it's held more or less consistently since it came out in August (so long as we could keep it in print, that is). Work has sent me all over the world this year. Off the top of my head, I've been in New York City, Las Vegas, Baltimore, San Jose, Portland, Minneapolis (thrice), and London, from which I have only just returned. And really, I think all that traveling is a major part of the problem. Last year (when I traveled perhaps twice as frequently, hitting all those places plus Columbus, Denver, Calgary, and more), I swore I wouldn't do it to myself again in 2009. That held for about the first third of the year, after which it was back to the airport on a regular basis.
All of that travel has brought a TON of good things my way. Again, off the top of my head, in the last year I've seen:
• The Winchester Mystery House
• The Rosetta Stone
• The Elgin Marbles
• T-Rex and Triceratops bones
• A stuffed dodo
• Meteorites from Outer Space
• The Original Painting for the cover of Guns, Germs, and Steel
• Huge paintings by Raphael larger than my apartment
• Whitechapel, London and several sites in the Jack the Ripper mystery
• Moctezuma's Throne
• A middle school production based on a Pathfinder adventure
• The Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook burning through two huge print runs in 5 months
I've also had dinner with a science fiction Grand Master for the second year in a row, was in a wedding, started a novel, was a guest of honor at a convention in a foreign country, lost about 20 pounds, watched the Vikings beat the Packers from the press box, and a bunch of other awesome shit that it's shameful that I can't remember at the moment.
So, yeah. All that stuff is awesome. But the travel is leaving me with a huge sense of dislocation that occasionally borders on depression. The dreary annual deluge and sunshine-disappearing-act of Seattle in Wintertime is no doubt adding to the general sense of malaise (which makes it a good thing I'm writing this from snowy—but sunshiny—Minnesota).
Here's hoping I don't fall into a decadent slide like my boy Serge. You'll know the decline has begun if you start seeing me in pictures with even bigger bags under my eyes, about 60 pounds of extra weight, and if I almost always slur my words when I speak. Oh, and if I tell Whitney Houston "I want to fuck you.
Things would have to be pretty bad to say that!
But even during a steep decline of greatness best measured by the space between "Melody Nelson
" and "You're Under Arrest
," Serge Gainsbourg managed to continue cranking out catchy, insightful music (almost) all the way to the bitter end.
We should all be so lucky.
So, in the spirit of holiday malaise and general decline, this year I've decided to highlight some of my favorite Gainsbourg sounds from what I would identify as the period after the height of his creative powers. I still LOVE each and every one of these songs and unless you're very brave you'll have to take my word that I'm still protecting you from the worst of it. I now own 297 Gainsbourg songs, and believe you me, they are not all golden. Even on Serge's lamest late albums, however, I can usually find one or two songs that I really dig.
This Christmas, as my gift to you, I present some of my favorite Gainsbourg songs from the era of his slow decline. It's a reminder that even if things are going bad, there's still time to create greatness.
Speaking of greatness, remember those great skin flicks they used to play on Showtime and The Movie Channel late at night on weekends back in the day? Stuff like Drive-in Theater and foreign movies in which naked boobs were the only redeeming feature? Remember the Emmanuelle movies?
Turns out Serge Gainsbourg wrote the score and theme song to the third Emmanuelle movie, "Goodbye Emmanuelle," the second sequel to what was at the time the most successful X-rated movie ever imported into the United States. By the mid-80s when it was showing on Skinemax, the sex was pretty tame, but holy god the score was awesome. I distinctly remember seeing this movie as a kid, so it was very likely my first encounter with Serge Gainsbourg. Try not to hold it against me that the clip below contains no nudity.
Speaking of Gainsbourg music scores, one of my absolute favorites is the instrumental theme from the film Cannabis, in which he and girlfriend Jane Birkin play weed dealers. I haven't seen the movie, but I have listened to the soundtrack about a trillion times. There's a great version with lyrics in which Serge talks about Cannabis, but I actually prefer the song without the words, just as he scored it for the film. I like how in the comments to this YouTube video someone wrote "the fact that this guy is not a massive star in America just proves what a massive bunch of fucktards we are." Couldn't have said it better myself!
Lastly is "Je Suis Venu te Dire, que J'en Vais" (I Came to Tell You that I'm Going). This is a sad, catchy tune, but I'm including it here because the person who posted it to YouTube thoughtfully included a ton of terrible/awesome photos that illustrate Gainsbourg's decline into the alcoholism that eventually killed him. In this period (or perhaps shortly after it), Gainsbourg started calling himself "Gainsbarre," a sort of alter-ego boozer that had completely taken over. Sad. But hey, great song.
Those few of you who managed to make it all the way through the song will no doubt have noticed the sounds of a woman crying over the last few verses. This is in noted contrast to Gainsbourg's hits "Pauvre Lola"
and "En Melody!" from the Melody Nelson album that made me fall in love with Serge Gainsbourg in the first place.
In fact, instead of a simple link to that song, I think I'll leave you with the video itself. Most of the videos above are from a iTunes mix I call DEEP GAINSBOURG, and they are admittedly "advanced" listening. If you don't get the appeal of the song below (beyond Birkin's annoying laugh, that is), I cannot help you.
Whew! Well, listening to all of that and posting these videos has made me feel a lot better than I did when I started writing this post, that's for sure.
Another victory for SERGE GAINSBOURG!
Have a merry Christmas, everyone!
It's a crisp November night here in London-town, where I've been stationed for much of the last week as a special guest of Dragonmeet, an exciting one-day gaming event that draws fans from all over the United Kingdom. I arrived on Thursday morning, flush with more than $1,000 of walking-around money from my London Fund auction (thanks, guys!) and eager to return to the city I visited last August as part of a Paizo trip to Gen Con UK. Unlike last year, this time I'm hitting the city all on my lonesome. I decided to add a week of vacation after the convention to explore the city, and today was officially the first day of that exciting journey.
I arrived Thursday morning following a 10-hour flight out of Seattle. I didn't manage to sleep even a wink on the plane, leaving me plenty of time to read two ancient science fiction novels in one sitting. The first was Henry Kuttner's THE MASK OF CIRCE, an exciting tale in which the main character is projected into an otherworldly dimension where he takes on the persona of the mythic Jason. What starts as a pure fantasy takes a typical Kuttnerian turn into the realm of weird-science and otherworldy lands trapped in the timescape. Overall I found it one of the better Kuttner books I've read to date, almost up there with THE DARK WORLD, which I still consider the finest novel-length work I've read from him (and I've read rather a lot). I followed that up with a reprint of the Argosy/All-Story edition of Ralph Milne Farley's THE RADIO MAN, originally published in 1924.
THE RADIO MAN is a sort of Edgar Rice Burroughs planetary romance pastiche, which is to say it borrows several elements from the then (and still) fantastically popular A PRINCESS OF MARS. In this case, an experiment in matter transmission via radio (then cutting-edge technology) sends the hero, Myles Cabbot, to Venus, where he becomes embroiled in the affairs of two warring nations. On the one hand there's the fair-skinned winged humanoids called the Cupians. On the other are the ant-like Formians, who (mostly) represent the "bad guys" in the relatively straightforward adventure story. I was particularly interested in reading this one (it's been on my to-read pile for a couple of years) because the formains were co-opted into Dungeons & Dragons, and no one really seems to know what to do with them. They just seem like boring giant ant-people. I'm sorry to say that a read of THE RADIO MAN doesn't really have much to offer in the way of fleshing these guys out, but Farley wrote a half-dozen sequels that may very well give some additional details about their society and culture. They did carry umbrellas drive around in weird little cars, which was a bit odd.
After landing, I took a fabulously expensive cab ride to my downtown London hotel, the Copthorne Tara Hotel, just off Kensington High Street. I was REALLY jetlagged on Thursday, but I managed to wander around the neighborhood a bit. Since it was the first Thanksgiving in my life that I haven't spent with my family, I decided to have the most American meal I could find—french fries at McDonalds. Yum! My belly filled with nasty fried potatoes, I went back to the hotel and sunk into sweet, sweet sleep.
Or at least I tried to. Just like last time, I'm finding that jetlag is REALLY kicking my ass. I've been here four days, now, and I'm STILL not 100% acclimated. I find myself getting tired in the middle of the day and wide awake in the middle of the night. Not an ideal situation.
That said, it has left me with a lot of time to read, and somehow in that first 48 hours I managed to finish another novel, this time Henry Kuttner's VALLEY OF THE FLAME. This one involves an American doctor discovering a mysterious city-out-of-time in the Amazon rainforest, complete with humanoids evolved from jaguars and cool differences in the time flow. As usual, Kuttner takes what seems like a pure fantasy concept and invents some scientific mumbo-jumbo to rationalize what's happening. In this case the titular flame is a bit of life-giving nebula gas (cue the ubiquitous pulp-era text reference to the Arrhennius Theory
) that rapidly evolves animals and keeps the valley in a different time-state from the rest of the jungle. It's a fascinating tale filled with lush description, a bit of brutal violence, and Kuttnerian femme fatales. I quite liked it, and rank it in the top 10% of the Kuttner I've read to date (which is most of it).
On Friday I ventured out from my sleeping chamber to get a haircut and some Italian food, finally meeting with my host, Cubicle 7's Angus Abranson, and a few Dragonmeet volunteers for a nightcap and some dinner. I finished out the day by cranking out another 1,000 words of my Spire of Nex Pathfinder novel. Not a great amount by any stretch, but I'm now charting out chapters in the final third of the book, which means I'm covering a lot of new ground that hasn't been as firmly envisioned as the first half of the novel outline, so I'm pleased with any progress at this point.
On Saturday I headed over to Dragonmeet
, which was held at Kensington Town Hall, just a couple of blocks from my hotel (and about 500 feet from my Thanksgiving McDonalds). There I ran a four-hour event based on my Spire of Nex novel for five British Pathfinder players, including a lot of folks who have been instrumental in setting up PaizoCon UK and the local Pathfinder Society scene. It's the fifth time I've run the event (twice at PaizoCon US, twice at last month's Neon Con in Vegas), and for the first time I managed to actually kill a player character with what's not really much of a combat adventure. It was a particularly gruesome end (eaten by a cloaker!), and many cheers were heard from the Pathfinder room. After that I participated in three seminars (state of the industry, how to launch a successful RPG, and a general Q&A) with fellow gaming celebrities Angus Abranson (Cubicle 7), Robin Laws (every company in the industry), Brennan Taylor (IPR), and Gregor Hutton (Box Ninja). The latter gave me a copy of his self-published science fiction RPG 3:16: Carnage Amongst the Stars
, which has convinced me I need to be paying a LOT more attention to the "Indy RPG" scene. Lots of great things are happening there, but all of the time spent on Pathfinder has kept me from exploring much of it. I'm thinking that should change soon (no doubt with a session of the new game Umlaut: The Game of Metal, which I picked up at the show).
One more quick note on Dragonmeet. At the show I had the honor of paging through a pre-release copy of Cubicle 7's new RPG Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
. As a long-time Doctor Who fan, this was a VERY exciting event for me, and I simply cannot wait to buy a copy when it hits the States in a couple of weeks. I think Angus is going to be tremendously successful with this game, and the top-notch production values go a long way toward solidifying my opinion on the matter. It's a beautiful boxed set, and I'm really excited to give it a whirl.
On Sunday Angus and the other volunteers and artists staying at our hotel (Norman, Tracy, and Linda) took the Tube to another neighborhood where we joined many of the guests and volunteers for an after-party drink-up at a local British pub. It was POURING rain that afternoon, but the walk was blessedly brief. So far I haven't cracked out the umbrella I brought from Seattle, but it doesn't look like my luck will hold out for the rest of the week, which promises to be wet and miserable, weather wise.
Today was a nice exception, being a brisk and dry winter afternoon. I spent most of the day at the wonderful Victoria & Albert Museum
, of which I will have much to say tomorrow. In preparing for this post, I realized that I must have left the adapter for my camera back in Seattle, so I'm going to need to pick up a new one here in London if I'm to share any of my pictures with you before I return home next week. And I took some LOVELY pictures today.
Finished off the day at a GREAT Lebanese restaurant called Ranoush
that I would highly recommend to anyone. There are several of these restaurants situated around London, apparently, and after tasting the shish taouk it's obvious why. Certainly the most delicious meal I've had since Las Vegas's Golden Steer
several weeks back. They say there's no good food in England, but in London I always end up eating like a king.
More photos and stories tomorrow, if I can manage to find some way to get the pictures off my phone and onto my computer. In the meantime, here are a couple of shots from Dragonmeet with my players and assorted Pathfinder fans. Both were taken by Rob Silk, who plays a great cleric of Asmodeus and whose running of one of our scenarios was an absolute joy to behold.
I'm honored to be a special guest at Dragonmeet
in London on November 28th of this year. I am so thrilled to get another chance to return to London so soon after last year's Gen Con UK trip, and I have plans for a full week of exploration in the city following the convention.
All that is going to cost some money, so I've decided to bite the bullet and post several collectible RPG and Dungeons & Dragons items from my memorabilia collection. I've accumulated a tremendous amount of cool D&D stuff over the last 10 years of working in the industry, and was hoarding old gaming books even before I got the job at Wizards of the Coast in 1999.
I've listed some really cool items in this auction, and if people show enough interest, I may delve even deeper into the depths of my collection to see what I can unearth. This time around I included the ultra-rare DUNE: CHRONICLES OF THE IMPERIUM RPG
, the huge Greyhawk World Map
from Dungeon a few years ago, a DRAGON MAGAZINE ARCHIVE CD-ROM
, and OTHER GOODIES
You can visit the complete auction list by following this link to my eBay store
I figure most of you follow this blog because you're interested in the stuff I've written for D&D or Pathfinder, or we share common interests like gaming. Some of you probably don't care so much about this stuff, but I tried to jazz up the auction with cool photos and fun descriptions that might make it worth your while. After the first 15 auctions, it got kind of hard not to throw some jokes into the descriptions.
I practically beg people to bid on my mint condition copy of CHRONOMANCER
, for example. We'll see if it works (I have my doubts!).
Anyway, here's a look at some of the cool stuff that could soon be yours!
Help me raise a pint (or three) in jolly old London Town by checking out my London Fund eBay Auction
before it's too late!
It was ok. Good enough, or perhaps a bit better. I was very lukewarm (but patient) with it, but I think it took a slight turn for the better with the big fight scene and the, um, betrayal at the end. I also liked the juxtaposition of some of the scenes.
Sometimes I felt like the words the script put into the mouths of the characters were not all that well chosen, but the structure of the script was relatively tight.
Lastly, I felt the whole thing didn't have anywhere near as "heavy" a feel as the original mini-series. Part of that was because the original V (though cheezy by today's metrics) was groundbreaking. By comparison, this seemed "light".
I think it's the difference between an hour-long show and an 80s miniseries. I remember feeling some of the same things when I watched the first new season of Doctor Who, but I felt that new series grew into the format with just a few episodes. Or rather, it took me a few episodes to acclimate to the shorter, more rapidly paced format. I suspect this show will be the same.
I haven't added it as a season pass yet, but I plan to watch the next few episodes.
I'm happy to report that nudity returns to the Kyrik covers with this, the final installment in Kyrik's epic saga. I think it's pretty amusing how these books say "in the tradition of Conan" on the cover, as if it were even needed.
Shirtless dude? Check.
Naked chick? Check.
Giant snake? Check.
What other "tradition" could this book be following? In the tradition of Zorro? In the tradition of the Bronte Sisters?
Crossposted to Paperback Flash
, my vintage paperback blog.
Wow. Hard to believe it's been more than a month since the last time I posted here.
I've been running ragged around these United States of ours selling Paizo's new Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which has been a huge success. We sold out of the first print run before it even hit our warehouse, and the second printing hits the West Coast in a couple of weeks. It should be in stores by the third week of November.
I also took a quick vacation back to the homeland of Minneapolis, during which I got to see the Vikings beat the Packers live on Monday Night Football at the Metrodome. There's really nothing better than that. bbcaddict
even came by for the second week of the trip, so I got to poke around the cities with her a bit, which is always fun.
I'm starting to see Planet Stories books in more and more Barnes & Nobles around the country, which is nice. It's taken a long time, but I finally feel like the line is getting a foot hold, tenuous as it may be. I was really pleased to see that Dreamhaven and Uncle Hugo's, two gold-standard sci-fi bookstores in Minneapolis, pretty much carried the complete line. Of course I came home with a sack full of paperbacks and pulps, many of which will end up getting write-ups here.
Which brings me to a bit of an issue. Although I stopped posting to my Paperback Flash blog at the same time I took a hiatus from this one, I've still been reading—quite fiendishly, I might add. There's nothing like a plane trip to churn through old pulp, and I've had more than my fair share of them in the last couple of weeks. The problem is, almost all of my reading in the last month has been for stuff I plan to sign for Planet Stories, and as I phase into a paranoid season, I want to hold off on posting about these books until I've signed them up.
I doubt very seriously that anyone with the ability to jump in and buy these 50+-years out-of-print stories is monitoring my blog posts just to snipe the stories I'm reading before I have a chance to sign them (and, from a business perspective, they'd probably be fools to do so), but I just don't want to take any chances, especially with the (living) author I've been working with and reading extensively over the last several months. We're on the verge of signing a deal that will be fairly big news (at least to nerds like me), and I'd hate for some other bozo to spoil it.
The only bozo I prefer screwing up my stuff is ME.
Lastly, just because I haven't been writing here on this blog does not mean I haven't been writing. Just today I posted the latest installment of my new monthly gaming column on EN World, and urge you to hop over and give it a read
. I had a good time writing this one, and thinking about the subject—starting a new RPG campaign!
I've also been dabbling with fiction. I have about 11 chapters of a Pathfinder novel outlined, as well as an extensive outline for a horror/sci-fi novella that I will probably expand into a short novel. It's been a long time since I seriously tried writing fiction (as opposed to essays or gaming stuff), and I'm having a blast doing it. None of this material is in the kind of shape it needs to be for anyone other than me to look at it, but I've got to go through here to get there, and so far I'm enjoying the journey.