Sunday, January 21, 2018

Conan: Coming Soon in BD

In light of recent news concerning Marvel taking over the Conan license in America, there is good news for fans of the famous barbarian:
After the success of its recent Elric adaptation, one of the largest French publishers GlĂ©nat has decided to adapt 12 Robert E. Howard Conan stories into graphic novels. 
Each adaptation will be from a different creative team, including the folk at CreART. 
There won’t be any kind of “standard” look for Conan’s appearance. Each creative team will draw the Cimmerian their way. 
The first will be published in May, adapting Howard’s early Conan work, The Black Colossus as a comic by Vincent Brugeas and Toulhoat.
Personally, I can't wait to import the English translations from the U.K.. And while I'm dreaming about public domain comics, can someone do a decent Northwest Smith or Jirel of Joiry series in the States?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Quotes on Messages in Fiction

"Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things." - C. S. Lewis

"Except for purposes of entertainment, I consider fiction, like drama an absolute unessential. I would not look to any fiction writer, living or dead, for guidance upon any subject, and, therefore, if he does not entertain, he is a total loss." - Edgar Rice Burroughs

"Before you can educate, you must first entertain." - Harlan Ellison

"This sort of sanctimonious “after school special” type of approach to storytelling is bad not just because it is so transparent and ham-handedly implemented. It’s bad because it displaces deeper and truer things: things that induce wonder and that have the capacity to thrill the soul. In the attempt to be “relevant” or topical, it’s all too easy to sacrifice timelessness. It’s not just the odd scene that’s off the mark either– the entirety of the plot is often structured in such a way as to deliver these ludicrous punchlines. It’s a waste, reducing what should be epic adventure down to the level of shaggy dog story." - Jefffro Johnson

"You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first." - C. S.Lewis

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Game

"Frankly, it seems to me that the average pseudo-scientific tale (always excepting the really fine work of such men as Wandrei, Williamson, Keller and a few others) is pretty poor stuff, below the average level of the weird, detective or adventure yarn. I attribute this partly to the necessity of bending plot, action, and atmosphere to fit some scientific or mock-scientific theory or formula, and partly to the fact that readers of this type of fiction seem to demand the same plots over and over again, and to resent the slightest variation. I may be wrong, but this is the conclusion I have reached from reading the published letters of pseudo-scientific fans. All readers of the wood-pulps are more or less inclined that way (or I should say most, instead of all) but the p.s.f. seem unusually conventional. A queer paradox."

- Robert E. Howard to August Derleth, Dec 1933
One sees the guiding hand of Gernsback here, bending science fiction away from the scientific-marvelous of Wells to something akin to the scientific locked-room mystery. Instead of entertainment through a good story, the goal became to make as few mistakes as possible as Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.points out in The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction:
Contemporary writers of hard sf still refer to writing it as "playing the game." Hal Clement, an acknowledged master of hard sf, formulated it as a cheerful competition between authors and reads: "The fun...lies in treating the whole thing as a game. I have been playing the game since I was a child, so the rules must be quite simple. They are: for the reader of a science fiction story, they consist of finding as many as possible of the author's statements, or implications which conflict with the facts as science currently understands them. For the author, the rules is to make a few such slips as he possibly can.
Jim Baen pointed out that readers only allow so many breaks in the suspension of disbelief before they would stop reading. How much harder is the job for the writer when their readers are actively looking for reasons to break the suspension of disbelief?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Destruction of the Four Olds

On the same day, pseudo-criticism of JimFear138's rant decrying the old, and Arch's unrelated criticism of the Cultural Revolution--and just why getting to the level of detail he normally does in his videos is far harder for Chinese history. And I find striking parallels with the louder portions of today's cultural gatekeepers and the war on the Four Olds: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Simple Art of Murder

by Raymond Chandler

Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic. Old-fashioned novels which now seem stilted and artificial to the point of burlesque did not appear that way to the people who first read them. Writers like Fielding and Smollett could seem realistic in the modern sense because they dealt largely with uninhibited characters, many of whom were about two jumps ahead of the police, but Jane Austen’s chronicles of highly inhibited people against a background of rural gentility seem real enough psychologically. There is plenty of that kind of social and emotional hypocrisy around today. Add to it a liberal dose of intellectual pretentiousness and you get the tone of the book page in your daily paper and the earnest and fatuous atmosphere breathed by discussion groups in little clubs. These are the people who make bestsellers, which are promotional jobs based on a sort of indirect snob-appeal, carefully escorted by the trained seals of the critical fraternity, and lovingly tended and watered by certain much too powerful pressure groups whose business is selling books, although they would like you to think they are fostering culture. Just get a little behind in your payments and you will find out how idealistic they are.

The detective story for a variety of reasons can seldom be promoted. It is usually about murder and hence lacks the element of uplift. Murder, which is a frustration of the individual and hence a frustration of the race, may have, and in fact has, a good deal of sociological implication. But it has been going on too long for it to be news. If the mystery novel is at all realistic (which it very seldom is) it is written in a certain spirit of detachment; otherwise nobody but a psychopath would want to write it or read it. The murder novel has also a depressing way of minding its own business, solving its own problems and answering its own questions. There is nothing left to discuss, except whether it was well enough written to be good fiction, and the people who make up the half-million sales wouldn’t know that anyway. The detection of quality in writing is difficult enough even for those who make a career of the job, without paying too much attention to the matter of advance sales.
The detective story (perhaps I had better call it that, since the English formula still dominates the trade) has to find its public by a slow process of distillation. That it does do this, and holds on thereafter with such tenacity, is a fact; the reasons for it are a study for more patient minds than mine. Nor is it any part of my thesis to maintain that it is a vital and significant form of art. There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that. The growth of populations has in no way increased the amount; it has merely increased the adeptness with which substitutes can be produced and packaged.
Yet the detective story, even in its most conventional form, is difficult to write well. Good specimens of the art are much rarer than good serious novels. Rather second-rate items outlast most of the high velocity fiction, and a great many that should never have been born simply refuse to die at all. They are as durable as the statues in public parks and just about that dull. This is very annoying to people of what is called discernment. They do not like it that penetrating and important works of fiction of a few years back stand on their special shelf in the library marked "Best-Sellers of Yesteryear," and nobody goes near them but an occasional shortsighted customer who bends down, peers briefly and hurries away; while old ladies jostle each other at the mystery shelf to grab off some item of the same vintage with a title like The Triple Petunia Murder Case, or Inspector Pinchbottle to the Rescue. They do not like it that "really important books" get dusty on the reprint counter, while Death Wears Yellow Garters is put out in editions of fifty or one hundred thousand copies on the news-stands of the country, and is obviously not there just to say goodbye.

To tell you the truth, I do not like it very much myself. In my less stilted moments I too write detective stories, and all this immortality makes just a little too much competition. Even Einstein couldn’t get very far if three hundred treatises of the higher physics were published every year, and several thousand others in some form or other were hanging around in excellent condition, and being read too. Hemingway says somewhere that the good writer competes only with the dead. The good detective story writer (there must after all be a few) competes not only with all the unburied dead but with all the hosts of the living as well. And on almost equal terms; for it is one of the qualities of this kind of writing that the thing that makes people read it never goes out of style. The hero’s tie may be a little off the mode and the good gray inspector may arrive in a dogcart instead of a streamlined sedan with siren screaming, but what he does when he gets there is the same old futzing around with timetables and bits of charred paper and who trampled the jolly old flowering arbutus under the library window.

I have, however, a less sordid interest in the matter. It seems to me that production of detective stories on so large a scale, and by writers whose immediate reward is small and whose need of critical praise is almost nil, would not be possible at all if the job took any talent. In that sense the raised eyebrow of the critic and the shoddy merchandizing of the publisher are perfectly logical. The average detective story is probably no worse than the average novel, but you never see the average novel. It doesn’t get published. The average—or only slightly above average—detective story does.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2017 Planetary Awards Nominations

Its that time of year again. Award season, and while controversy will no doubt continue to sweep through the Hugos yet again, there are other alternatives for science fiction enthusiasts to consider.

Such as the Planetary Awards.
Happy New Year — it’s time to nominate your favorite science fiction and fantasy writing for the 2017 Planetary Awards.We’re again doing only two categories:
  1. Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
  1. Longer story (novels)
If you’re a blogger, podcaster, or youtuber, the nomination process is easy:
  1. State your nominations on your site/cast/channel, mentioning that they are for the Planetary Awards
  1. Leave a comment on this post, with a link to your nominations
The nomination deadline is February 14th, 11:59PM US Pacific time.
My nominees for this year are:

Short Story: "The Last American", by Schuyler Hernstrom

Novel - Galaxy's Edge: Legionnaire, by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole

If you have a book blog, podcast or YouTube channel, join the party and nominate your favorites.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Valerian and Laureline: The Circles of Power

When we left Valerian and Laureline at the end of Wrath of Hypsis, Earth, Galaxity, and most of the human race vanished in a space-time paradox. Valerian and Laureline still wander the galaxy, thanks to a favor called in to the Hypsis "gods", but they no longer have the backing or the money of humanity's superpower behind them. Since then, their adventures have focused on providing for themselves as smugglers with an aging spaceship. But at the planet of Rubanis (last seen in Ghosts of Inverloch), the couple's luck has finally run down alongside their spaceship. Repairing a spaceship from a model line that no longer exists and no longer has spare parts is prohibitively expensive, and Valerian and Laureline do not have the money required.

Salvation shuffles in on the clawed feet of the stool pigeon shingouz, alien spies who have a job for their good friends. For a 10% cut of the profits, of course. Colonel T'Loc of Rubanis needs a pair of spies to sneak into a region of the planet known as the Circle of Power, once the seat of power giving orders to the government, now nothing but a font of gibberish. Valerian and Laureline accept, as the deal will cover their repairs twice over, and are reunited with Laureline's favorite pet--a Grumpy Transmuter of Bluxte able to copy any jewel he eats. With the help of an amorous and reckless cab driver named S'Traks, Valerian and Laureline must navigate the undergrounds and factions inhabiting Rubanis to find a way into the Circle of Power.