Random Reviews: “Lt. Privet’s Love Song” by Scott Thomas

Random Reviews: “Lt. Privet’s Love Song” by Scott Thomas

The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, Cover by Jon Sullivan
The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, Cover by Jon Sullivan

“Lt. Privet’s Love Story” is set in a complex fantasy kingdom which is ruled by sibling monarchs who command a massive and powerful navy. Scott Thomas focuses his attention on a remote seaport, the activities that brought two of the royal navy ships to the seaport, and the actions of a lieutenant that threatens to cause further harm to the fleet.

The title character serves on the frigate North Swan in a fantasy world. After his ship was mysteriously damaged by a ghostly red ship, it put into the harbor at New Crown for repairs. While in port, he becomes smitten with Hazel, the daughter of the local innkeeper. Although one would think that level-headedness and logic were good traits for a lieutenant in a royal navy, Privet fails to demonstrate either of those traits.  Rather than court the barmaid, he goes to Old Crown, located on top of the mountain at which New Crown is at the base, and purchases a love philtre from the twin Deerfield Sisters.

As may be expected, Privet’s used of the magic potion causes difficulties. Having been befriended by Captain Moorsparrow of the Swift Cannon, and his wife, Privet learns that the fleet’s flagship has also been fired upon by the mysterious red ship. To make matters worse, the Swift Cannon was carrying one of the heirs to the throne and was now also in port for repairs, which would delay the repairs to the North Swan.

Naturally, Moorsparrow’s wife winds up unintentionally drinking the love potion, which leads Moorsparrow to challenge Privet to a duel, a situation which will either deprive the royal navy of a ship’s captain or the reader of a character who is presented as the hero, and certainly the protagonist, of the short story. A deadly outcome for the duel is only averted by the sudden reappearance of the red ship.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Musashi and Kojiro

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Musashi and Kojiro

I recently finished reading Eiji Yoshikawa’s long, 1,500-page novel, Musashi, originally serialized in Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun between 1935 and 1939. It tells a fictionalized story of the early life of Musashi Miyamoto, the celebrated author of The Book of Five Rings who is considered by many the finest exemplar of Bushido, the warrior code of the samurai.

It was a good read, which was no surprise — the book has sold far more than 100 million copies, and its depiction of Musashi has inspired a number of screen incarnations, none more famous than Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai trilogy (1954-1956), starring Toshiro Mifune as Musashi. After finishing the novel I decided to give the films a rewatch and they stood up well, so I thought I’d present them here. Of course, we covered Samurai I in a Cinema of Swords article in October 2020, but here are Samurai II and III and a sort of spin-off from the following year, Sasaki Kojiro.

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High Fantasy Noir: Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse

High Fantasy Noir: Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse


Black Sun (paperback reprint) and Fevered Star (Saga Press, June 2021 and April 2022). Covers by John Picacio

My first novel The Robots of Gotham was released in June 2018, and it was gratifying to see a summer debut could quickly climb bestseller lists, receive wide attention and praise from numerous venues, snag a Nebula and Hugo nomination, and win a Locus Award.

Not mine, of course. No, all that breathless acclaim went to Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning, released a week after Robots. It was consistently annoying to hear the excited chatter about that book from friends, coworkers, parents, children, and people standing next to me at the damn post office.

I decided to read Roanhorse’s book so I could see what I was up against. That was a huge mistake. Pretty soon I was talking it up to anyone who would listen — or even make eye contact. You haven’t read Trail of Lightning?? I heard myself say. Check it out first — it’s fantastic. I guess I suck as a self-promoter, but I’m still your guy for honest book recs.

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KISS’ Hard Luck Woman – It was for Rod Stewart?

KISS’ Hard Luck Woman – It was for Rod Stewart?

And now, for something completely different. My older sister was a huge KISS fan. She and some friends went out for Halloween dressed as the band one year. So, I heard their music as a little kid, but it wasn’t until later I really got into them. I saw them on the Crazy Nights tour. That remains my favorite album by the band, followed by Alive II.

While I like a lot of their songs, I acknowledge, lyrically, their tunes are the equivalent of a horny 14-year old boy. Titles like Love Gun, Bang Bang You, and Ladies Room, are about as deep as they sound. And there are a lot more ‘clear’ examples; without even getting into lyrics. Rocket Ride isn’t exactly an existential examination of interstellar travel…

But it is what it is. They’re a great rock and roll band. Paul Stanley grew up on the Motown and Philly soul sounds, and his Soul Station project is a reflection of that. IF you don’t much use for him, google him singing the classic, Get Ready, as he emulates Eddie Kendricks’ falsetto. This is the music Stanley loves. And it’s got those great Motown horns. And listen to an original song he wrote for the album, I, Oh I. It’s simply terrific and would have been a smash in 1966.

He was also a big fan of Rod Stewart, and liked songs such as Maggie May, and You Wear it Well. He wanted to write a song for Stewart, and came up with Hard Luck Woman. This explains why it doesn’t sound like a typical KISS song. The lyrics bring to mind the nautical classic Brandy, from Looking Glass.

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See The Northman If You Can

See The Northman If You Can

See The Northman if you can.

I went by myself. Mattie did not think it was what she needed just now. There are, I think, three other people in the theater. Price may have been an issue. I got in at a senior discount and it cost $12.09. I can prove I am a senior by remembering when kiddie matinees were 25 cents and regular movies were about a dollar.

In any case, it is superb for what it is. A grown-up Robert E. Howard movie, filled with hatred and vengeance and swordplay, but with real emotions and believable characters, as opposed to when we get in the typical cheapo sword & sorcery flick. (In which category I include the Schwarzenegger Conan movies.) It is of course heavily derived from Icelandic saga material, and also from the earlier, Danish version of the Hamlet story, which comes from Saxo Grammaticus. Prince Amleth, aged about ten, sees his father murdered by his uncle, then escapes, is thought dead, grows up to be a berserker, and is honor-bound to seek revenge. He makes dismaying discoveries about his mom.

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Vintage Treasures: Nebula Award-Winning Novellas edited by Martin H. Greenberg

Vintage Treasures: Nebula Award-Winning Novellas edited by Martin H. Greenberg


Nebula Award-Winning Novellas (Barnes & Noble, 1994)

It’s become fairly routine for the Nebula Awards Showcase, the annual anthology gathering the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Nebula award winning fiction, to omit the Best Novella. In fact, in the last five years only one novella, Martha Wells’s Murberbot tale All Systems Red, has been included in its entirety. Most of the others have been represented by brief extracts.

This isn’t a new problem. In his introduction to Nebula Award-Winning Novellas, B&N buyer Stephen Pagel complained that novellas, beloved by readers and writers alike, get no love from publishers and editors. Here’s his take.

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An Extravagant and Wonderful Fantasy with Assassins, Ghosts, and Necromancers: Saint Death’s Daughter by C. S. E. Cooney

An Extravagant and Wonderful Fantasy with Assassins, Ghosts, and Necromancers: Saint Death’s Daughter by C. S. E. Cooney

Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney (Solaris, April 12, 2022)

Here’s a novel I’ve been anticipating for some time — years even. C. S. E. Cooney has been working on it for even longer, to be sure. It is in a sense her first novel, except that an earlier planned novella, started I believe long after this novel was first drafted, got away from her a bit and ended up novel length, even though it has only been published in an original anthology. (This is The Twice-Drowned Saint, from the Mythic Delirium anthology A Sinister Quartet, which is well worth your time for all its stories.)

Time for full disclosure — I’ve known Claire Cooney for a long time now, and I consider her a good friend. I’ve been reading her fiction since 2007, when her first stories appeared, and I’ve reprinted several of her pieces. We are both long-time contributors to this eminent publication (and indeed it was John O’Neill, the overlord of Black Gate, who introduced us.) Claire gave me an advance copy of Saint Death’s Daughter. So calibrate this review as you will — I was praising her work before I knew her, mind you (and I thought the author of “Stone Shoes” might be male at first.) Still, I clearly am predisposed to like her fiction.

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Goth Chick News: Not a Bit Jealous of the 2021 Stoker Award Winners

Goth Chick News: Not a Bit Jealous of the 2021 Stoker Award Winners

 

Back in March, I laid out the list of nominees for the Horror Writers Association’s 2021 Stoker Awards for superior literary achievement in horror, in a variety of categories. The Bram Stoker Awards (literally the coolest award in history) were instituted in 1987 and the eleven award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel, and Non-Fiction. As I previously explained, I’ve tried everything short of writing a qualifying story, to get my hands on one.

But alas, the 2021 awards were distributed only to the worthy few (none of whom were willing to sell), at the Association’s annual banquet on May 12-15 during StokerCon 2022 which was held at the Curtis Hotel in Denver CO. Black Gate and Goth Chick News would like to congratulate the following authors and editors for their superior achievements and suggest you, beloved readers, start loading up your Amazon wish list immediately.

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Random Reviews: “Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh” by Jason Fischer

Random Reviews: “Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh” by Jason Fischer

Dreaming Again, Cover by Darren Holt
Dreaming Again, Cover by Darren Holt

Often when authors discuss their writing process, they refer to bringing two seemingly disparate ideas together to create a story. Jason Fischer clearly followed this idea in writing the incredibly titled “Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh.”

The first story involves an undead man making his way through the Australian outback. As the story opens, the zombie finds itself hungry and surrounded by a herd of feral camels. He makes a snack out of one of the camels, allowing the wounded creature to continue on its way and infecting the rest of its herd.

The other story concerns Trevor Flannigan and Kevin “Swanny” Swanwick, two small time crooks who kill Buchanan, a local farm owner. Their story tells of their flight from the murder scene ahead of the police, as well as a look at Chief Inspector Wallis, who happens to be Buchanan’s brother-in-law and is trying to track them down and bring them to justice.

Behind both of these stories is the background of an Australia settled by the English, but invaded by the forces of Danish king Christian. Although the Danes don’t appear in Fischer’s story, their influence is felt throughout. After killing Buchanan and finding a safe full of krone with King Christian’s face on it, Trev realizes Buchanan was a spy. Trev and Swanny also discover that no matter how much money they got from their heist, they are unable to spend it as the flee, first to Pimba, and then on to Alice Springs, trying to get away from anyone chasing them.

Wallis is Fischer’s answer to Inspecter Javert, following the trail no matter where it leads, even as his realizes that the beaten-up car he is driving may not be able to return him and his quarry to civilization and justice. Even as Willis begins his chase after Trev and Swanny, he realizes that Buchanan was into something unsavory after finding a Danish krone amidst the crime scene. Nevertheless, his task is to bring Buchanan’s murderers to justice. There will be enough time to look into Buchanan’s crimes later.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Alexandre/Alexander

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Alexandre/Alexander

William Shatner in Alexander the Great (USA, 1968)

To explain the title: this week we’re covering a lesser-known version of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers, plus a movie about Alexander the Great. If this seems like a weak pretext for a Cinema of Swords article theme, you’re right — mea culpa, it’s a fair cop, I’m busted. The fact is, I was desperate for an excuse to bring you a review of an obscure adventure film about Alexander the Great that stars — wait for it — none other than William Shatner and Adam West!

But we’ll start with the other Alexandre, a French Three Musketeers from the mid-Fifties, preceded by Fanfan la Tulipe, the hit film that brought swashbucklers back to the French cinema. However, if you feel the need to skip ahead to the Shatner flick, hey, this is the internet, no one’s looking.

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