30 January 2012

The Original Godzilla on Blu-Ray

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

This week’s release of the original 1954 Japanese Godzilla (Gojira) on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection is a major step in recognition for the film in the U.S. Yes, that’s the Criterion Collection, the premiere quality home video release company, acknowledging that Godzilla is a world cinema classic.

As a life-long Godzilla and giant monster fanatic, I can tell you what a long journey we’ve taken to get to this point. When I became feverishly interested in Japanese fantasy cinema, beyond the boyhood love, in my early twenties, Godzilla and its brethren had almost zero respect in North America. And zero quality home video releases. Even as the awful Roland Emmerich Godzilla hit screens to howls of hatred, there was no corresponding move to get the real films out to North American viewers in editions with subtitles and decent widescreen presentations.

In the mid-2000s, the shift started. The original Godzilla, not the Americanized version with Raymond Burr, got a theatrical stateside release, and then a DVD from Classic Media. G-Fans such as myself were finally freed from having to see the movie on bootleg VHS tapes and could recommend it easily to friends, promising them that the Japanese original would blow their mind with its quality. Now, we’re getting into the big-time cineaste world with Hi-Def and the Criterion Collection.

23 January 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 3: The Warlord of Mars

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Although there are still eight more books to go in the Mars series, with The Warlord of Mars I can bring to a conclusion Phase #1 of the saga: this completes the “John Carter Trilogy,” and the books that follow it take different paths with new heroes. John Carter will not return to the protagonist role until the eighth book, The Swords of Mars, published in 1935.

At the end of the thrill-ride of The Gods of Mars, John Carter lost his love Dejah Thoris in the Chamber of the Sun within the Temple of Issus. A whole year must pass before the slow rotation of the chamber will allow Dejah Thoris to escape. She may not even be alive, since the last moments that John Carter witnessed, the jealous thern woman Phaidor was ready to stab Carter’s love. Did she kill Dejah Thoris? Or did the noble Thuvia take the blow instead?

Readers hung on through the middle of 1913 until Burroughs brought a conclusion to the John Carter epic at the end of the year and made his hero into The Warlord of Mars.

Our Saga: The adventures of earthman John Carter, his progeny, and sundry other natives and visitors, on the planet Mars, known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. A dry and slowly dying world, Barsoom contains four different human civilizations, one non-human one, a scattering of science among swashbuckling, and a plethora of religions, mystery cities, and strange beasts. The series spans 1912 to 1964 with nine novels, one volume of linked novellas, and two unrelated novellas.

Today’s Installment: The Warlord of Mars (1913–14)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913)

Roman Empire Falls, But Amazon Makes It Rise

 Two nights ago, I was reading in the late evening, propped up comfortably on my couch with two pillows behind my back, listening for the sound of rain that was supposed to start falling that night. My kindle was in my hand, and I was reading Thuvia, Maid of Mars from its Project Gutenberg version (free!) in preparation for my review of it for Black Gate as part of my “Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars” series. I decided to take a break, and switched off my Kindle.

An advertisement popped up on the screen for the shutdown mode. I almost never pay attention to these ads, since for some reason Kindle ads rarely target readers. They sell flowers and shoes. I don’t understand the profitability of this, but Amazon rakes in the money and is gradually devouring the world, so the strategy must be working.

However, this time the ad was for a book, and it caught my attention. A 2006 history volume titled The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather was going to go on sale at the Kindle store at midnight for $1.99. For the first time, I pressed the button to get more info: I’m fascinated with Roman history and Late Antiquity, and the books on the subject rarely go down to that sort of price. I received an email that repeated the information about the sale starting at midnight and provided a link.

22 January 2012

What I Learned My First Week of E-Publishing

A week has passed since the official release of my novelette “Farewell to Tyrn” as an e-book. (Purchase it for Kindle here, all other e-readers here.) This is my first venture into the e-publishing world; indeed, my first time self-publishing anything. It was, to put it mildly, a crazy week for me. Crazy out of proportion to reality, because although the sales of “Farewell to Tyrn” have pleased me, it hasn’t emerged as The Next Big Thing or tranmutated me into an overnight sales and marketing guru. Nor did I expect it to. The “crazy” comes from jumping into a new world filled with tools that I’ve either never touched before or only picked up briefly to use for different purposes. Entering into e-publishing is like grabbing a megaphone to give a speech to a massive crowd, when previously you only used a megaphone to shout over the fence at your neighbor to tell him to please turn down the damn TV.

Question: What have I learned from this first week in the e-pubbing universe?

Answer: That I can’t learn anything definite in only a week.

But . . . I can make a few guesses, and a few observations. For anyone else debating releasing an ebook, some of these first-timer experiences may help you out.

17 January 2012

Notes on E-Publishing for the First Time

I’m taking a one-week break from Mars to do some shameless self-promotion, which I promise will be over quickly so I can regale you with a personal story. The Warlord of Mars next week, I promise.

As I announced on Sunday, I entered the realm of e-book publishing this week with my novelette “Farewell to Tyrn.” It is available for 99¢ at Amazon.com for the Kindle, and at Smashwords for all other e-reader formats (including vanilla plain text, which I find cool in a low-tech way).

I’ve done the whole promotional spiel that I did on Sunday over at Black Gate, but I’ll cut out that material and skip to the part where I talk about how I decided to give e-publishing a try.

The changing of the publishing industry in the face of the surge of ebooks and e-readers was the dominant conversation last year in the literary world. I sometimes thought I might drown under the flood of data and the (often violently) conflicting opinions that were winging around the Interwebs. There are now more blogs dedicated to self-publishing than there are blogs dedicated to LOLcats; a terrifying number.

15 January 2012

“Farewell to Tyrn” Is Now Available

My first original ebook, the novelette Farewell to Tyrn, is now on sale. This is a new story of Ahn-Tarqa, a “sister story” for my Writers of the Future-winning “An Acolyte of Black Spires.”

Purchase it for Kindle at Amazon.com

Purchase it for other formats at Smashwords

If you don’t have an e-reader, Smashwords has it available in a PDF and for on-screen reading.
From the Product Description:

“Harvey conjures his fantastic settings with sparkling, evocative prose narrated at a crackling pace. Watch this guy.” —Howard Andrew Jones, author of Desert of Souls

On the continent of Ahn-Tarqa, where science and magic are one, and humans share the land with great saurians, all races have in common a dreadful ailment: the disease known as “The Sorrow.” A lingering hopelessness with no cure. A fear of life itself.

But for twelve-year-old Belde, her days in the city of Tyrn, playing in the streets with her whip-smart dinosaur pet Rint, seem far removed from the Sorrow she sees in others. Then, one burning summer day, cruel sorcerers from the masked race known as "The Shapers" slither from their black towers into Tyrn and knock on the door of the workshop of Belde's father.

Belde is about to drop into a nightmare that will carry her and Rint across the city, fleeing from the Shapers' twisted killers, and into the glaring light of the truth about her life—a truth that echoes over all Ahn-Tarqa with the sound of the word “Sorrowless.”

Ryan Harvey, winner of the Writers of the Future Award, continues the adventure in the science-fantasy setting of his story “An Acolyte of Black Spires” with this new novelette of action, heartbreak, and discovery.

10 January 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 2: The Gods of Mars

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I played a bit rough with A Princess of Mars last week in my first installment of this eleven part mega-series on the Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. That book knocked me out when I first read it as a junior high school kid, but it was also the first ERB book I ever picked up. Now that I’ve read most of Burroughs’s canon, the flaws of his first book seem more obvious. For all that is wonderful about A Princess of Mars, it looks like a runt compared to the book I knew was snapping at its heels: The Gods of Mars. Also known as: “Edgar Rice Burroughs gets the knack.”

Our Saga: The adventures of Earthman John Carter, his progeny, and sundry other visitors, on the planet Mars. A dry and slowly dying world, the planet known to its inhabitants as “Barsoom” contains four different human civilizations, one non-human one, a scattering of science among swashbuckling, and a plethora of religions, mystery cities, and strange beasts. The series spans 1912 to 1964 with eleven books: nine novels, a book of linked novellas, and a volume collecting two unrelated novellas.

Today’s Installment: The Gods of Mars (1913)

Previous Installment: A Princess of Mars (1912)

Secret Origin

In his original proposal to editor Thomas Newell Metcalf at Munsey’s Magazines regarding a novel of Martian adventure, Edgar Rice Burroughs suggested he could write three books from the concept. But he apparently wasn’t certain about the content of the second and third volumes to follow A Princess of Mars, since it was Metcalf who gave him the idea of where to start the next book. After Metcalf rejected Burroughs’s second novel, The Outlaw of Torn, he urged the author to return to Mars and send John Carter into the Valley of Dor, the mysterious paradise mentioned a number of times in the first book. Burroughs ran with the concept, and finished the novel in the beginning of October 1912.

06 January 2012

Comments on Race in A Princess of Mars

It came as a surprise to me that my review of A Princess of Mars provoked some debate in its comment thread over at Black Gate. Although I get decent hits on my posts, they usually only get a few comments and don’t develop much discussion aside from, “Yeah, I love/hate that book/movie as well.”

Never underestimate the power of Edgar Rice Burroughs to create discussion.

The early comment that caused the debate was one suggesting that the racist material in A Princess of Mars put it on the same level as the racist ideology of D. W. Griffith’s notorious film The Birth of a Nation. After some back-and-forth in the comments, I decided I needed to address my thoughts on this, and how I deal with racism in pulp stories. What follows is a somewhat edited (for context) version of my lengthy comments, which should also have a spot here on my website.

When writing about pulp, in which racist assumptions are almost always prevalent, I’ve made the decision to address racism in the work if it is one of the primary reasons for the existence of the work, or if the author gets up on a soapbox to preach racist ideology. “Pigeons from Hell” is a good example of the former; that story is entirely linked to race issues, and it is impossible to discuss the story without it. In fact, the race issue of Howard’s horror tale is one of it’s most intriguing aspects. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Lost on Venus is an example of the latter; Burroughs halts the story to give obnoxious lectures on eugenics that are thoroughly loathsome and reflects the author’s own views on the topic. It also kills the pacing in what is otherwise the best book in the underwhelming Venus series.

02 January 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 1: A Princess of Mars

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

The year 2012 C.E. is the centenary of the Reader Revolution. Two novels published in pulp magazines that year, A Princess of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes, re-shaped popular fiction, helped change the United States into a nation of readers, and created the professional fiction writer. One man wrote both books: Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In celebration of this anniversary, and in anticipation of the upcoming Andrew Stanton film John Carter based on A Princess of Mars, (read my review here) I will tackle all eleven of ERB’s Martian/Barsoom novels in reviews for Black Gate. I also have something special in store for Tarzan of the Apes. This endeavor sounds a touch insane, but come on, but this is the centennial of the series! When else am I going to do it?

Let us turn back the calendar a hundred years to the beginning of all things. . . .

Our Saga: The adventures of Earthman John Carter, his progeny, and sundry other visitors, on the planet Mars. A dry and slowly dying world, the planet known to its inhabitants as “Barsoom” contains four different human civilizations, one non-human one, a scattering of science among swashbuckling, and a plethora of religions, mystery cities, and strange beasts. The series spans 1912 to 1964 with eleven books: nine novels, a book of linked novellas, and a volume collecting two unrelated novellas.

Today’s Installment: A Princess of Mars (1912)