29 April 2013

“The Hanging Gardener” to Appear in Plasma Frequency

More good publishing news rolls in… this one with a slice of Nebuchadnezzar.

I received word today that my short dark fantasy story “The Hanging Gardener” will appear in an upcoming issue of Plasma Frequency Magazine, which publishes in both print and eBook formats and is now going on its second year of publication.

“The Hanging Garnder” is an H. P. Lovecraft-influenced tale, or perhaps I should say it is a “Mythos-influenced” horror tale, since it draws on other members of the Lovecraft circle. I always planned to write a Mythos story from the time I started reading HPL in college, but I wasn’t interested in simply imitating Lovecraft. When I latched onto the idea of setting a story in the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon, I realized I had finally found the slant necessary to make a story that fit my own writing style and historical interests. I wrote the first draft of it during NaNoWriMo, part of a flurry of multiple stories, but it was my personal favorite work to have come out of that November writing marathon.

No definite date is set for the issue yet. I’ll keep everyone up to date when I know more.

Thank you to editor Richard Flores IV for accepting the story.

26 April 2013

“The Sorrowless Thief” Reviewed at Tangent Online

John Sulyok at Tangent Online has given a positive review of my recently published Ahn-Tarqa story, “The Sorrowless Thief” (read the story for free here).

From the conclusion of the review:
Ryan Harvey’s “The Sorrowless Thief” exists as part of a larger science-fantasy series. The world of Dyzan includes few guns and many (magically) tamed dinosaur beasts situated in the usual tropes of fantasy. These surrounding details thicken the setting and the plot, adding a lot of intrigue to the events herein. It feels like a good entry-point if the series continues.
Good news there, John: it already has continued! You can read “An Acolyte of Black Spires” in Writers of the Future Vol. XXVII, and get the novelette “Farewell to Tyrn” as an ebook right now. Dive in, folks… let’s get some publishers chomping at the dinosaur bit to hold of the novel Turn over the Moon.

Thanks to John O’Neill for posting about Tangent’s taking notice.

A Man Is as Big as What Makes Him Mad: Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Directed by John Sturges. Starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Russell Collins, Walter Sande.

Our wide image starts with a split between the modern world and the Old West: Fabulous vistas of a Southwestern desert sprawled over the screen in CinemaScope and Technicolor glory. Running through the brush and sand is an icon of the frontier: the railroad. But no black iron locomotive belching a smoke banner rides these rails. It’s a high-speed silver-and-orange streamliner offering every comfort to its riders blazing through this wasteland to get from one glistening city to the other.

Yet this train of the New Twentieth stops at Black Rock, Arizona, a town rusted in place in the Old Nineteenth. The streamliner hasn’t stopped at Black Rock in four years, and the town looks like it hasn’t touched the rest of the nation for far longer than that. Black Rock may have telephones, electric power, and cars, but it’s as rough as any frontier town from the 1880s and about as far distant from what civilization calls law and order. The single hotel advertises “Steam Heat” on the glass of the lobby window, but none of the buildings look like they’ve gotten refurbished since the invention of barbed wire. Even the sheriff’s office is a one-room hovel made of stone with a single jail cell of iron bars.

23 April 2013

Romance & Revisions: The Outlaw of Torn by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Outlaw of Torn (1914)
By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

“Not since Arthur of Silures kept his round table hath ridden forth upon English soil so true a knight as Norman of Torn.” –Joan de Tany

“I am very doubtful about the story. The plot is excellent, but I think you worked it out all together too hurriedly.” –Thomas Newell Metcalf, letter to Edgar Rice Burroughs, 19 December 1911

“I am not prone to be prejudiced in favor of my own stuff, in fact it all sounds like rot to me….” –Edgar Rice Burroughs, letter to Thomas Newell Metcalf, 14 March 2012

In Irwin Porges’s groundbreaking and Chartres Cathedral-sized biography Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan (Brigham Young University Press, 1975) only two of ERB’s books have solo chapters dedicated to them: Tarzan of the Apes, of course—and The Outlaw of Torn.

Unless you are a hardheaded Burroughs devotee, I’ll wager a ducat you have never crossed paths with the title The Outlaw of Torn. Considering that chronologically it is squashed between his two most famous books, A Princess of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes, it makes sense that The Outlaw or Torn gets overlooked. That it belongs to the genre of Medieval Romance, a mite mustier than high Martian adventure or swinging times in the African rainforest, compounds the issue.

18 April 2013

Universal Horror Archive: Man Made Monster (1941)

Man Made Monster (1941)
Directed by George Waggner. Starring Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney Jr., Anne Nagel, Frank Albertson, Samuel S. Hinds.

Although a minor film taken on its own, Man Made Monster introduced two of the major stars of the 1940s Universal horror movie factory: actor Lon Chaney Jr. and director-writer-producer George Waggner. Chaney Jr. (born Creighton Chaney) became Universal’s primary monster performer for the rest of the decade, thanks to his success in the title role of The Wolf Man. George Waggner also rode the success of The Wolf Man as its director, and rose to be the studio’s go-to producer and director for the remainder of the classic horror cycle.

Man Made Monster started as an adaptation of a story by Harry J. Essex, “The Electric Man,” which Essex wrote as a film treatment. Universal planned it as a Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi vehicle in 1935 under the title The Man in the Cab, but the studio placed that project on hold. The similarities between the proposed film and The Invisible Ray in 1936 (both concern a glow-in-the-dark killer with an electrical death-touch) make it seem that the execs shelved one to make the other. In 1940, the new Universal management tossed $86,000—as low a budget as anything they were cranking out at the time—to director George Waggner to make another attempt at “The Electric Man.”

14 April 2013

Benson’s Bond Begins: Zero Minus Ten

Zero Minus Ten (1977)
By Raymond Benson

Here is another Bond review I have dragged out of mothballs. I’ve never reviewed one of Benson’s novels—in fact, I’ve only read the first two and have stalled getting to work on my copy of High Time to Kill—but I found my thoughts on his inaugural outing…

After writing fourteen “continuation” James Bond novels, English writer John Gardner finally packed it in after COLD (U.S. title: Cold Fall) in 1996. Glidrose Ltd., the literary rights holder to James Bond, gave the task of writing new adventures of the master spy to Raymond Benson. The American Benson, a longtime Bond fan and author of the popular 1980s’ The James Bond Bedside Companion—an invaluable book for me in high school when there was little criticism of the movies and novels available—debuted with Zero Minus Ten, a thriller taking place around the historic handover of Hong Kong to the mainland Chinese government.

13 April 2013

Universal Horror Archive: The Black Cat (1941)

The Black Cat (1941)
Directed by Albert S. Rogell. Starring Basil Rathbone, Hugh Herbert, Broderick Crawford, Bela Lugosi, Gale Sondergaard, Anne Gwynne.

One of the great discoveries in my college library was the volume Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946 by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas. The 1990 book (new at the time) was one of the first to look at the entire canon of Universal’s horror and mystery pictures of the Golden Age and treat them as something more than the “kiddie TV entertainment” they were relegated to during the previous decades. I grew up watching these movies on weekend afternoons, but until Weaver et. al I knew little about the behind-the-scenes tales of their making.

I must have kept that book checked out of the college library for a straight year, constantly renewing it. It gave me a huge uptick in appreciation for classic horror, and instilled in me a hunger to dig up the more obscure movies the authors covered. And they covered everything: The Sherlock Holmes movies; the Inner Sanctum series; the supernatural comedy Ghost Catchers; films such as The Secret Key that might only count as horror because a star like Boris Karloff appeared in them; historical epics with gruesome content, like Tower of London; plus odd obscurities The Mad Ghoul, House of Horrors, and the film I’m writing about today, the 1941 mystery-comedy The Black Cat.

James Bond Book Review: Scorpius by John Gardner

Scorpius (1988)
By John Gardner

I finished reading all of John Garnder’s “continuation” James Bond novels last year with COLD (alias Cold Fall), a project I started in the mid-‘80s when I read Icebreaker. I don’t have any intention of going back and reading them again—at least not in the far foreseeable future—but I discovered a few ancient reviews I wrote for them back in the early 2000s and posted on a forum somewhere. Don’t remember where. Maybe it has gone into the dead case files. But I still have a few of them saved on the hard drive, and here is a revised version of my original thoughts on Scorpius. I recall when this book was published; I had read all the Gardners up to that point, but disliked Win, Lose or Die so much that I quit Gardner for almost fifteen years starting with Scorpius. The book is now back in print, along with all of Gardner’s and Benson’s 007 novels. My advice: read Fleming instead. If you have already read all of Fleming’s books, go read them again.

We now turn things over to me, ten years ago:

12 April 2013

The Last Time We Saw Tarzan: Tarzan and the Lost City

Tarzan and the Lost City (1998)
Directed by Carl Schenkel. Starring Casper Van Dien, Jane March, Steven Waddington.

We haven’t gotten a live-action theatrical Tarzan movie since 1998. As of a few days ago, hopes for one in the near future died when Warner Bros. halted development on a David Yates-directed project that sounded like it had promise. We will see the Lord of the Jungle back on the big screen eventually, but right now if we want to fall back on the last time it happened, we have to go to this: Tarzan and the Lost City, a mid-budget release that vanished quickly from theaters in April 1998 with a meager take and left little evidence of its existence behind. I was already an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan and well read in Tarzan’s adventures, and even I skipped out seeing this theatrically in 1998.

Did the film deserve better? As much as I’d love to answer “yes” and tell you it’s a minor-classic awaiting a cult following, Tarzan and the Lost City is a dull and cheap-looking affair. It stays true to Burroughs’s spirit most of the time, but when it makes a crazy swing into the supernatural to adhere closer to the Indiana Jones formula, it loses even the goodwill it gets from trying. It was pretty thin goodwill to begin with.

11 April 2013

That Company That Time Will Never Forget: A Visit to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated

Cross-posted to Black Gate.

In the waning days of March 2013, I made a trip I should’ve taken years before. I’ve lived in Los Angeles since I was four, became a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs in my teens, but never thought about taking the jaunt on the I-405 into the Valley to visit the office of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. I knew the office was there; that part of the Valley didn’t get the name “Tarzana” by accident. But it wasn’t until after working for three years writing numerous articles about Burroughs’s books and movies based on them that I realized the opportunity in plain sight—actually, over the hill. I looked up the company’s website, found a phone number, and gave the office a call, wondering what might come of it. A pleasant-sounding woman answered the phone, and after I provided her only a sentence of explanation (ERB fan, live in L.A., would like to write something about him for an online magazine) she cheerfully told me to call the president of the company, James J. Sullos Jr., and gave me his cell phone number. Another call later—and a half-hour of quality fan talk with Mr. Sullos–I had an appointment to come out to the offices and have lunch with him and Cathy Wilbanks, the company archivist and executive assistant.

What follows is a brief record of that delayed visit. I would love to present myself to you as ERB often did, a fictional version of Ryan Harvey who discovered this account in a bottle that washed ashore from Caspak, or communicated via Gridley Wave from Helium on Mars. But no, it was just me, a humble fan who took some notes and stared in awe at… well, I’ll get to that.

08 April 2013

New Story Available: “The Sorrowless Thief” at Black Gate

I know some folks have waited to get a new Ahn-Tarqa story—believe me, I want you to have them—and here is the next one: “The Sorrowless Thief” is free to read at Black Gate’s online fiction.

“The Sorrowless Thief” is actually the first Ahn-Tarqa story I completed, so this is where I originally discovered the Sorrow and the Shapers and the concept of the “Devil Claws.” I revised the story later to match it better with the evolving series, but the core has always remained the same.

This was also my first paying fiction sale, so it was quite the event. John O’Neill purchased it for Black Gate. The backlog at the magazine meant that many more sales and publications have come along since, including my first pro sale with “An Acolyte of Black Spires.” I am glad to at last have the original Ahn-Tarqa tale available, and I am still proud of five years after I completed it.

Here is the sample:
At the time I had lost interest even in the meager profession of begging. I gave up my alms bowl and crawled into a smoke pit in the most dismal part of Ahn-Tarqa’s most dismal city.
I do not know how many days I droned away on a cot in a sweltering common room filled with narcotic smoke before I heard that voice. Its tone spoke sharp and clear from a place outside drugged dreams. I propped myself onto an elbow so I could listen to it.
The voice belonged to a tall man perched over the dreamer in the cot behind mine. The speaker was pestering the dreamer with questions. “You’re a fool to bother,” I muttered.
My head swam from the smoke, but I could see the man turn to look at me. “I’ve heard that sometimes the best knowledge in the city comes from men in smoke pits.”
“Sometimes. But this near to the Month of the Moon we’re all close to dead. You’re better off pestering the sots drowning themselves in a tavern.”
“Taverns are filled with other thieves,” he answered. “I don’t want to make competition. Not with the haul I plan to make.”
Read the whole story here.

Then get more Ahn-Tarqa with “Farewell to Tyrn”