30 July 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 8: Swords of Mars

“But my memories of that great tragedy are not all sad. There was high adventure, there was noble fighting; and in the end there was—but perhaps you would like to hear about it.”

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Guess who’s back? John Carter, who for the twenty years of real time since The Warlord of Mars has only served the role of a cameo character, is once again the hero and narrator of a Martian novel. And for the first time, he goes off-planet—although only as far as one of Mars’ two miniature moons.

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: Swords of Mars (1934–35)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913), The Warlord of Mars (1913-14), Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), The Master Mind of Mars (1927), A Fighting Man of Mars (1930)

19 July 2012

“A Poem for Mareike” to Appear in Aoife’s Kiss

I found out yesterday that my story “A Poem for Mareike” will be appearing in the September 2013 issue of print speculative fiction magazine Aoife’s Kiss. This is exciting news for me because not only have I always wanted to get into this particular magazine since I read stories from it in a few “Year’s Best” anthologies, but because this is one of my personal favorite of my own short stories. I’m always afraid that the stories I like the most are the ones least likely to sell—so this comes as a great relief.
Munich during the Thirty Years’ War
“A Poem for Mareike” is the second piece I’ve sold that takes place in historical Bavaria. (The first is “The Shredded Tapestry.”) It takes place in Munich during the decades before and after the Thirty Years’ War, 1618–1648, during two phases of the life of an unlucky magician. The name “Munich” never actually appears in the story, but anyone who knows the city will recognize it from the names of the towns around it and some of the landmarks. Munich is the city I know best after my hometown of Los Angeles, so I found it was easy to sink myself into the city as I wrote about it, even if it was Munich of almost four hundred years ago.

16 July 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 7: A Fighting Man of Mars

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

Back on Mars already?

I’ve now crossed the equator of the eleven-book Martian series, and A Fighting Man of Mars is the first volume of “Phase #3” of Barsoom. Phase #1 is the original John Carter trilogy of the early ‘teens. Phase #2 comprises the three books where Burroughs tried new heroes. Phase #3, which covers the three books published in the 1930s, has John Carter return as the protagonist, and shows ERB spreading out the time between the books until he eventually quits writing them altogether. (Synthetic Men of Mars is the last actual novel of the series; the two following books are compilations of novellas.) Even though the first book of the new phase still features a hero other than John Carter, a new decade has arrived, and with this book it seems that ERB is seeking to re-capture the excitement of the first trilogy.

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: A Fighting Man of Mars (1930)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913), The Warlord of Mars (1913-14), Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), The Master Mind of Mars (1927)

11 July 2012

Take the Ultimate Western Film Challenge!

The website Bloody-Disgusting recently posted the “Ultimate Horror Challenge” (and expanded it) to gauge readers’ level of horror fandom. My immediate thought was: this needs to be done for Westerns as well!

And since nobody else will do it, I guess it is up to me.

As with Bloody-Disgusting’s List, this is not meant as a list of “Every Western Ever Made” or “The Greatest Westerns Ever Made,” but a “broad sampling from key films of the genre.” Bloody Disgusting calls their list “a compendium of films that we feel—in one way or another—are essential viewing for every horror fan.” I don’t want to press that far and declare the films I’ve put below as essential viewing for all Western movie fans. You can easily see only half of what’s here and count as a fan in my eyes—not to mention being just a great goddamn human being. But if you really love Westerns, you should make an effort to see all of these. (And more.)

10 July 2012

I Go to the Summer Movies: The Amazing Spider-Man

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

With directing great superheroes comes great responsibility. I wish director Marc Webb knew this. Or perhaps directing superheroics on screen isn’t something the man is capable of.

Webb’s re-boot of Sony’s Spider-Man franchise is not an utter elevated train-wreck. If all you want is a bit of comic book action during the summer between The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, then The Amazing Spider-Man is adequate to the task. I certainly can’t give it a worse rating than something like Battleship or Dark Shadows. It’s not a Batman and Robin. There’s that.

But as a Spider-Man film, and me speaking as a Spider-Fan, the The Amazing Spider-Man is a huge disappointment. It’s even a bit depressing. I’m glad I have the Sam Raimi films to bolster me, knowing that somebody has already done Spider-Man right, because otherwise this very unnecessary (except for keeping a lock on film rights) re-do of Spidey’s origin would be… okay, an elevated train-wreck. And to hear Sony, and even some fans, try to do revisionist history on the Raimi films as if they were off the mark—that’s painful. Yes, Spider-Man 3 had many problems, most of which were forced on Raimi by the studio, but it is still a better “Spider-Man film” than this one. The first Raimi film is an well-crafted, dead-on origin story, and Spider-Man 2 is just a goddamn great film. Raimi balanced Spidey’s drama with the crisp fun of his comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man is an overall mess, but there are two major problems that injure it. Before getting into that, here’s a fast rundown on its many other problems:

03 July 2012

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars: The Master Mind of Mars

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

I maxed out on Barsoom back in March. After reviewing the first five Martian novels over a span of two and a half-months, I switched over to writing about the movie John Carter of Mars. (That is what I’m calling it, dammit, because that’s what the end title card says.) I love that movie, but the box-office and the box-office pundits did not, and although I struggled to keep a positive view, I realized after all of this that I needed a break from Edgar Rice Burroughs’s red planet.

But during a brief pause between my summer movie reviews, the opportunity to zap my Earthly body back to Mars offered itself. So my overview of ERB’s Martian epic resumes at Book #6, with a new Earthman hero, a return to first-person, and the Barsoomian equivalent of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

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 Master Mind of Mars (1927)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913), The Warlord of Mars (1913-14), Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916), The Chessmen of Mars (1922)