In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.

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Pulp Appeal: Clark Ashton Smith

I was very much a latecomer to Clark Ashton Smith. Of course I’d read some of his stories and poems in collections of Weird Tales and other horror anthologies, but I’d never sat down to read his work in earnest until a few years ago.

Broadswords and Blasters

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Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-colored sun
Of secret worlds incredible, and take
Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar,
Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume
The spaceward-flown horizons infinite.

-The Hashish Eater – or- The Apocalypse of Evil

No discussion of classic pulp would be complete without mentioning Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961), one of the leaders of the Weird Tales school, along with his contemporaries H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, and arguably the one whose legacy hasn’t lasted to the extent of either of the other two.

Though the three never met, they all maintained correspondence with each other during the pulp golden age of the 1930s, and Smith helped contribute to what would later be called the Cthulhu mythos. In fact, Smith would go so far as to create a family tree of sorts, where Hastur is…

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The Hemadip: Wendig Challenge

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:

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Pulp Appeal: The Shadow

My newest Pulp Appeal column for Broadswords and Blasters.

Broadswords and Blasters

816uepmhbql“Hahahahahahaha. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Ahahahahaha. The Shadow knows.” This is how the radio play always starts before the narrator introduces the episode. “The Shadow,” the narrator says, is “a man of mystery who strikes terror in the very souls of sharpsters, lawbreakers, and criminals.”

For people of now advancing age, The Shadow had a regular appointment with their much younger selves as their families sat in the living room on Sunday evenings and tuned in to the weekly radio serial. As a character for radio, The Shadow was given the mysterious power to cloud men’s’ minds so he could appear to be invisible, a trick he learned from Far Eastern hypnotists. The time when radio was dominant is a fascinating era of human history, in that audio productions were the shared experience for families of the day and the actual imagery was left…

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A Simple Stretch of Sand and Gravel: Wendig Challenge

The prompt this week was a pair of themes:

1. Doing a good thing sometimes means being evil.

2. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

In my narrator’s head, he thinks he’s doing the first. But that’s only what developed after I started riffing on the second. Story after the break

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Pulp Appeal: Flash Gordon

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.

Broadswords and Blasters

Image result for flash gordonFlash 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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Ibrahim and the Polong: Wendig Challenge

This week’s Wendig challenge was a random image search using Flickr’s built-in randomizer according to an algorithm they call “interestingness.” I was not impressed at first, even though my friend Matt showed me a pretty cool image he got. I had to refresh mine 4 times before I got something that wasn’t a bird. That’s not an exaggeration. Each click popped up 9 photos in a grid. I got 27 straight birds. Birds aren’t that interesting, people. They really aren’t.

So eventually I ended up with this really cool image of a chicken satay street vendor in Jakarta, uploaded by photographer Alex Newman. At first I ran with that. Then, while browsing other pictures of Indonesia on Flickr, I ran across the image to the right. My character sketch of a lonely street vendor on a rainy day in Jakarta evolved into the story of a lecherous man who is coaxed into even greater evil by a demonic spirit. Story is after the break. Enjoy.

 

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Pulp Appeal: John Carter, Warlord of Mars

The Pulp Appeal of John Carter, Warlord of Mars

Broadswords and Blasters

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I don’t remember how I got hooked on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter stories, but it was long before the 2012 movie. The basic plot was interesting–a man “dies” on Earth and awakens on Mars, locally called Barsoom, in the distant past when the planet was still populated by various Martian races–but that wasn’t the draw for me. At the time, I wasn’t even the biggest ERB fan, having felt like Tarzan was a bit of a let-down. If I had to pin down why John Carter resonated with me, it’s because I’m a fan of stories that examine the gradual decay of once mighty civilizations, the slow fall back into barbarism. This sort of story beat is common to much of pulp fiction–from detectives in the big city to nameless horrors waiting to awaken and destroy everything–where the interplay between civilization and barbarism frequently occurs.

The John…

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Magic Trick

magician-29694_960_720This is something quite a bit different from me. I’m an amateur magician, and last week I took part in a 7 day challenge to turn a magic trick I could do into a masterpiece. I’m sure this isn’t yet a masterpiece, but it’s the script I’ve written for myself. And, as it is writing and it took me some time and dedication to craft, it fits the blog. It’s sorta fiction, as most magic is, and I’ve tried to cover up methods, so no one needs to fear “exposure.”

 

CONNECTION

a three-phase card-matching routine script
based on work by Karl Fulves and Bob Longe.

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The Porcelain Cat – A Wendig Weekly Challenge

So, Matthew X. Gomez convinced me to get back on the weekly fiction bandwagon, and I’m going to try to keep up with him. Below is the first new story I’ve written in awhile.

The Porcelain Cat

I suppose I ought to document the strange occurrences at my house over the last month or so. It all started after my mother’s funeral and my having been willed an old porcelain cat that no one seems to recognize. Why she should wish me to have anything at all while my father is still alive is a mystery at best, but particularly when considering what it was she left me.

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Pulp Appeal: Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser

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.

Broadswords and Blasters

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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