Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Quick Cuts

I've been reading Clark Ashton Smith's works lately, hosted at Eldritch Dark. Prior to this, I was only familiar with the prose poem "Chinoiserie", which had excellent imagery, a hallmark of Smith's work. So far, I've only read a handful of stories.

"Phoenix" - A rare science fiction story that mixes Weird Tales' atmosphere, Campbell's despair and atomics, and the Golden Age's Men with Screwdrivers with a scientific version of a Dying Earth. The result speaks more to the human condition than to science. However, it tends to be easily cast aside by fans since it is not hard science fiction, and its fantastic depiction of the surface of the Sun fits no theory of the stars.

"A Vintage from Atlantis" - Mixed pirates, ghost stories, and a Pied Piper tale into a horror story worthy of Weird Tales. The atmosphere is suitably dark, and sometimes a character exists only to be a warning to others.

"Mother of Toads" - This one's a walk on the spicy side of Weird Tales, dealing with seduction, sex, and rejection. Off-screen, of course, since the spiciest of pulps could barely compete with the tamest of lewds on Twitter. But the highlight is in the character introduction, where Smith's wordcraft steadily beats the descriptive drum of "toad".
"Why must you always hurry away, my little one?" 
The voice of Mere Antoinette, the witch, was an amorous croaking. She ogled Pierre, the apothecary's young apprentice, with eyes full-orbed and unblinking as those of a toad. The folds beneath her chin swelled like the throat of some great batrachian. Her huge breasts, pale as frog-bellies, bulged from her torn gown as she leaned toward him. 
He gave no answer; and she came closer, till he saw in the hollow of those breasts a moisture glistening like the dew of marshes... like the slime of some amphibian... a moisture that seemed always to linger there. 
Her voice, raucously coaxing, persisted. "Stay awhile tonight, my pretty orphan. No one will miss you in the village. And your master will not mind." She pressed against him with shuddering folds of fat. With her short flat fingers, which gave almost the appearance of being webbed, she seized his hand and drew it to her bosom.
I'll be reading more in the near future.


I bounced off of Sax Rohmer's "Lord of the Jackals". Too much explaining about what the story was about to tell, not enough about the story itself. And there's a bit of archaic form to the prose that turned me off as well.


I don't think I've recently seen anything so classically Golden Age anime as Batman Ninja. Swordsplay, transformation sequences, speed lines, called attacks, giant robots, if this was made by a Western studio, people would scream cultural appropriation, or worse, parody. Actual mature stories with mature concerns of personal identity, justice, and mercy. It's a loving tribute to 80s and 90s anime as much as it is a reimagination of Batman into a Japanese context. And there are references for the eagle-eyed. Catwoman might as well be the sister of Lupin III's Fujiko Mine, as both as designed to move plastic figures, and both cat burglars always end up winning. And it's reassuring to see that Japan can actually draw attractive adult women. But it's the plot and the experience that harkens to the past heights of the medium.

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