Thursday 24 January 2013

C.L. Moore, 102

Today marks C.L. Moore's 102nd birthday. Her contributions to the Sword-and-Sorcery genre have been acknowledged at Resources for Science Fiction Writers, Adventures Fantastic, and Swords & Sorcery: a blog. For me, I'll just repost my Cimmerian tribute.

I recently reread Paizo's Black God's Kiss anthology, which is pretty excellent if you bypass Suzy McKee Charnas' dreadful introduction - instead go to Ryan Harvey's splendid piece at Black Gate, which provides most of the necessary information without throwing Moore's literary contemporaries under the bus - and I heartily recommend it.

The only other problem I have is the cover. Now, it's a gorgeously rendered cover, no doubt about that: I adore the evocative, noirish lighting and the sense of weirdness it portrays. Unfortuantely, Jirel's pose is veering slightly towards the sort of sultry pose that would make it a target for Jim C. Hines or the Hawkeye Initiative, and the armour is... well, it sure isn't what Moore described:

She smiled to herself as she slipped a fresh shirt of doeskin over her tousled red head and donned a brief tunic of link-mail. On her legs she buckled the greaves of some forgotten legionary, relic of the not long past days when Rome still ruled the world. She thrust a dagger through her belt and took her own long two-handed sword barebladed in her grip.

We already have plenty of not-safe-for-work Jirel cheesecake that has her borrowing from Red Sonja's wardrobe (even the ones with full or at least decent armour have problematic breast cups, to say nothing of the ever-dependably pulptastic Margaret Brundage's contributions): in this day and age, art of Jirel in the armour she was originally described to be wearing would actually be refreshing. Not to mention she, like Dark Agnes, is frequently given a mane of fiery red hair rather than the shorter cut described (long enough to become tousled and to be able to obscure her face, but short enough to be described as "short upon high, defiant head") Still, at least the bare thighs are in the text, right? And in any case, what's important is that even given her rather fetishy armour, Jirel looks strong and powerful: she has sufficient mass and muscularity to believably heft that (one-handed, argh) sword, and the environment is mysterious and evocative.

This piece by Michael John Morris is probably the most accurate I've seen,
though it falls prey to the long hair trap.

Even so, Paizo produced a fine collection of one of Moore's best creations, I'd encourage anyone interested in Sword-and-Sorcery to seek them out. Even if it doesn't end up your cup of tea, they deserve to be included in the annals of S&S.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Robert E. Howard and Meditations on Manliness

I write about bears with primitive faults and failings and even if I am nothing but a cub writer, still the faulty characters I make are more real than most of the young intellectual fools with their egoist hooey. I mean my characters are more like bears than these real bears are, see. They’re rough and rude, they got paws and they got tummies. They grumble and they hug; break the fur of teddies and you find the bear, roaring and red-pawed. That’s the way teddies are.
- Robeart E. Howard, letter to Teddy Clyde Smith, week of February 20, 1928.

I was planning on doing a post on Robert E. Howard for his birthday, but couldn't think of anything to write. What is there left to say that hasn't been said over the past 107 years? There are some very interesting ones from Jim Cornelius, Todd Vick, SFGateway, Read at Joe's, Kaijuville, Temple of the Sun, and naturally the Robert E. Howard Forums, but I couldn't think of a "hook." Luckily fate intervened and provided an excellent opportunity via a Rob Bricken article on 11 Preposterously Manly Fantasy Series:

What makes a book series manly? Is it the action? The violence? The lack of female characters? Is it male wish-fulfillment? Misogyny? Or a combination of all these things?

What makes a book series manly? Well, I have an idea of that...

Sunday 20 January 2013

Abraham Merritt, Metal Master

She stood before us, shielding us. One golden call she sent.
I looked back into the darkness. Something like an enormous, dimly shimmering rod was raising itself. Higher it rose and higher. Now it stood, upright, a slender towering pillar, a gigantic slim figure whose tip pointed a full hundred feet in the air.
Then slowly it inclined itself toward us; drew closer, closer to the ground; touched and lay there for an instant inert. Abruptly it vanished.
But well I knew what I had seen. The span over which we had passed had raised itself even as had the baby bridge of the fortress; had lifted itself across the chasm and dropping itself upon the hither verge had disintegrated into its units; was following us.
A bridge of metal that could build itself - and break itself. A thinking, conscious metal bridge! A metal bridge with volition - with mind - that was following us.
There sighed from behind a soft, sustained wailing; rapidly it neared us. A wanly glimmering shape drew by; halted. It was like a rigid serpent cut from a gigantic square bar of cold blue steel.
Its head was a pyramid, a tetrahedron; its length vanished in the further darkness. The head raised itself, the blocks that formed its neck separating into open wedges like a Brobdignagian replica of those jointed, fantastic, little painted reptiles the Japanese toy-makers cut from wood.
It seemed to regard us - mockingly. The pointed head dropped - past us streamed the body. Upon it other pyramids clustered - like the spikes that guarded the back of the nightmare Brontosaurus. Its end came swiftly into sight - its tail another pyramid twin to its head. 
 - A. Merritt, "The Metal Monster" (Illustration by the incomparable Jim Cawthorn)

Today is Abraham Merritt's 128th birthday. Every time someone's anniversary comes along, I feel rather inadequate for rarely coming up with a good tribute. Usually the heavyweights, the Lovecrafts, Tolkiens, Poes, Conan Doyles et al are well represented on the blogosphere: even the criminally neglected Smith had some great tributes. But the vastly under-represented A. Merritt could do with more love, beyond some glib quips about how "The Metal Monster" would make for the most Metal concept album ever. So, I've made a roundup of some of my favourite Merritt tributes and discussions around the web, and have a short look at one of the greats of 20th Century speculative fiction.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Clark Ashton Smith's "The Hashish Eater"

I'm always a bit haphazard observing my favourite writers' birthdays and other days of observation, but luckily I was reminded of Clark Ashton Smith's. I don't have much to say, but I'll link back to John R. Fultz' article on "The Hashish Eater, Or, The Apocalypse of Evil," which was my introduction to Smith's work.

And why not, let's read the entire poem. I've added some illustrations that I think have a little of that Smithian psychedelia. Now let's go on that journey through spaceward-flown horizons infinite...

Thursday 3 January 2013

The Lord of the Rings: An Alternate Timeline

It's J.R.R. Tolkien's twelvety-first birthday, and it's amazing to think how the Middle-earth franchise has changed in a scant decade. Sure, there were multiple video games, board games and the like before the films, but nothing like the volume of other franchises. For most of its years, Middle-earth has enjoyed a sort of sanctity, with Tolkien afforded his deserved place as Sub-Creator, any derivative efforts considered exactly that. Middle-earth Role-Playing introduced several characters, names, places and ideas, but nobody tried to say it was "canon." And Tolkien's been lucky: nobody's been trying to horn in on his status, claiming to be "co-creators" of Middle-earth, or that their fan-fiction is just as good as his, if not better. Though there is someone who is unfairly saddled with that label.