In today’s Pulp Appeal, I discuss Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft is a polarizing figure.1 His fiction lives on for us mainly because of the anthologizing and reprinting of his stories that was done mostly by August Derleth in the years after Lovecraft’s untimely death at the age of 46. While no contemporary can touch Robert Howard in the realm of prolific, Lovecraft was nearly his equal, publishing not just scores of horror2 stories but also nonfiction, poetry, and even some science, mostly astronomy. Because of his prolific and varying works, we’ve chosen to do as we did with Howard and Burroughs, and focus in on characters and arcs rather than try to nail a whole author in one swoop.
Which brings us to today’s topic: Randolph Carter. Carter is the eponymous main character of an early Lovecraft work titled “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and followed up with “The Unnameable,” The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,
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In today’s Pulp Appeal Matt explores the lasting appeal of Conan.
Trying to pin down when I originally was exposed to Conan, the world-travelling barbarian created by Robert E. Howard, is tricky. It might have been watching edited versions of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer when I was a kid. I clearly remember one summer in a library, devouring the paperback pastiches put out by Lin Carter and L’Sprague DeCamp and, at the time, feeling frustrated by the discontinuity between the stories.
One of the most telling features of Conan is the recurring theme of civilization versus barbarity. Reading the Conan stories, it is clear that Howard truly believed that barbarism, while not necessarily superior to civilization, would always win out in the end. Frequently, Conan is able to better more educated swordsmen through natural talent, strength and speed. Fancy swordsmanship avails his opponents naught. But even when facing against other barbarians, such as the Picts in Beyond the…
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Matt speaks the truth. Although this is his blog entry, when it comes to what we are looking for in submissions to Broadswords and Blasters, we are of one mind. With one exception, we have tagged the same stories as accepted or rejected before talking about those stories. And once we talked about the one exception, we were on the same page there, too.
This week’s challenge was to write a story about the end of the journey. 1500 words. Like rolling off a log, right?
Yeah, well my first draft ended up around 2800 and it’s still sitting there in the back of my head, a bad itch that won’t go away. I’m thinking “Am I clear what the stakes are?” and “Is there more I can do to build up atmosphere?” and “Is there enough tension to keep readers interesting?” and yeah, there’s a bit there I want to tease apart, insert a bit more into.
And none of it is going here, because 3,000 words or so is a nice little sweet spot of a story to try submitting to markets. As of right now, I’ve got all of four pieces submitted for the year. So instead of fiction, you get to hear what I like to see in a story…
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Stand at the edge of a cliff or tree branch, take a rope in your hands, inhale a deep breath, and then leap out, shouting out a big ululating “Ah AW EEEH AW AW EEEH AWWWW!” You probably know where I’m going with this, but just in case, you’ve just completed the Tarzan yell. You don’t need the cliff or the rope (Tarzan does), but just about everyone I know has mimicked this joyful exclamation while preparing to jump down from something, often beating their chests with their fists while shouting.
There are few characters of the golden age of pulp fiction with the range and longevity of Tarzan. Hell, there are few characters at all with Tarzan’s ubiquity.
A creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan has been around for over 100 years, and yet film-makers and writers are still mining it for new material, including last year’s The Legend…
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That’s right folks, issue one is now available for preorder. Featuring work by Matt Spencer, R.A. Goli, Michael M. Jones, Dusty Wallace, Nicholas Ozment, Dave D’Alessio, Josh Reynolds, and Rob Francis. Cover art by Luke Spencer of Carrion House.
Tell your friends, tell your lovers, tell that random stranger sitting across from you on the bus.
Help keep pulp alive!
This week’s challenge was a list of one-word titles. I chose “Juniper” and I have no idea why. Started out sort of noirish, quickly morphed into urban fantasy, and ended with more questions than it started. There’s certainly more story I could tell, but I think I’m about done looking into the world of Johnson and Juniper. At least for now.
Story after the break.
In today’s Pulp Appeal, Matt tackles Kull the Conqueror, Robert Howard’s other, lesser known barbarian king.
Kull, yet another creation of the inestimable Robert E. Howard, is easy to write off as simply a precursor to Conan when you realize that Howard worked on the stories immediately prior to debuting his more famous barbarian. It doesn’t help that the first published Conan tale was a reworked Kull story, which should be fairly obvious after you think about it. After all, he’s a barbarian who takes over a kingdom by deposing a tyrant. He’s a man of action, who likens opening Pandora boxes to birthday presents. Like Conan, he represents Howard’s philosophy of barbarism as, if not superior to civilization, then the natural state of society, with civilization being aberrant.
Kull and Conan exist within the same fictional universe, even if they are separated by thousands of years. Kull is an outcast twice-over. He is from Atlantis, here a young island nation of barbarian tribes struggling for…
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This week’s challenge was to create a monster. I’m not sure the hemadip I’ve created counts, at least not in the story here, which, let’s be honest, is not really a story so much as some sort of glorified Wikipedia entry. I had a hard time with this prompt. Next time you come across a leech in the wild, I hope this little vignette crosses your mind.
Story after the break:
Flash Gordon was not a character I ever really appreciated. The camp, even from the early portrayals, simply didn’t rub me the right way. I’m not sure what it is exactly, because there’s tons of camp from other pulp era creations, but for whatever reason Flash Gordon just didn’t resonate.
But the soundtrack by Queen? That I can stand behind.
Flash Gordon has had a long and storied life. Starting as a comic strip, it’s been a movie serial, a live-action adaptation (twice), a cartoon series (three times), and most famously, the1980 film starring Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, BRIAN BLESSED, Topol, and a blink and you miss it appearance by Richard O’Brien (better known as Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
The plot is standard pulp fare. Ming the Merciless, having Earth brought his to attention by his counselor Klytus, decides to subject it to natural disasters (whether to actually test Earth or simply because he’s bored is left open). This has the unforeseen consequence of crashing the plane, in which are riding our hero Flash and his intrepid reporter/love interest Dale Arden, into the abode of mad scientist Karl Zokov. Zokov, of course, is the one that realizes the…
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I came to read Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in my early 30s, so I don’t have the same connection that many fans do. But I certainly enjoyed what little of it I have read.
Originally conceived in collaboration between Fritz Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer (Leiber would long credit Fischer with the original conception of the characters), and born in the middle of the Great Depression, the seven-foot tall barbarian Fafhrd and his diminutive companion, the former wizard’s apprentice Gray Mouser, would come to codify sword-and-sorcery, leaving behind a long and colorful legacy. Unlike Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Fafhrd (despite his barbarian upbringing) and the Gray Mouser were urban characters, happy to be adapted to civilization and prowl its streets and alleys. Leiber would go on to publish six collections and one novel starring the pair.
Leiber’s stories always held a special appeal for me. They are removed from the sweeping epic fantasy of Tolkien, instead zeroing in on a couple of rogues who are (mostly) out for themselves. If they end up saving the city of Lankhmar (their home and the setting for…
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