Regrets for the Vanished John Carter

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Right now, as I type this and most likely as you read it, a movie titled John Carter of Mars, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars, is in production. Not in development. Not in pre-production. Not in meetings. It is in front of cameras. Andrew Stanton, director of the brilliant CGI Pixar films Finding Nemo and WALL·E, is shooting John Carter of Mars from a script by Stanton, Michael Chabon, and Mark Andrews, in London this very minute, in this dimension, and it will reach theaters in 2012, in time for the novel’s one hundreth birthday.

Really. Honest and for true. It is actually happening.

This is both the perfect and imperfect (although not the pluperfect or future perfect) time for an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Martian novels. It is perfect because the level of special effect visualization has finally caught up to the wild genius of Burroughs’s Barsoom, and the current mania for fantasy and and science-fantasy spectacle has climbed to a level where a wide audience will open up its arms to embrace the wonder of John Carter slashing his way across the dreamworld of Mars. And in Andrew Stanton, we may very well have the perfect director to achieve it. (He has never done a live-action film, but I’ll give the person who directed the new science-fiction classic WALL·E the benefit of the doubt any time). It’s the imperfect time because many viewers will believe that a John Carter of Mars project is some kind of Avatar clone. James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster borrows heavily from Edgar Rice Burroughs—to the point that I almost could think of nothing else but ERB while I was watching it—but general audiences probably won’t know that not only does John Carter date back to 1912, but a film project has been going through constant development hell since the 1980s. For years, I’ve had my hopes raised with each announcement in the trades that made it seem that a Barsoomian adventure was finally about to make it to theaters: the close-call with John McTiernan (I own a copy of that Rossio-Elliott script; not bad), the almost with Robert Rodriguez from a Mark Protosevich script, the near-miss with Kerry Conran, and the so-close brush with John Favreau before Iron Man called.

But the story of the development Purgatorio of John Carter goes back even farther into history. Farther even then the discussion of Ray Harryhausen adapting the property in the 1950s. To see what might have been, during the only other time that John Carter could have been properly imagined for theaters, we must look back to the Great Decade of the 1930s.

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Rich Horton reviews Black Gate 13

Sunday, January 17th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

black-gateissue-13-coverEvery year, uberreviewer Rich Horton sets out to summarize the year in genre short fiction at his newsgroup on SFFNet.

Note I didn’t say “survey,” or “overview.”  Rich reads every story in every single magazine in the field — and more than a few outside it — and discusses each publication in detail.  It’s a process that takes months (not including reading time). As he put it in his final post last year:

I read various issues of 36 print magazines, 29 electronic sources, 50 original anthologies, 14 story collections with original pieces, 12 single story chapbooks, and a few other miscellaneous spots. I read a total of 2325 stories: 69 novellas, 434 novelettes, and 1823 short stories… word count total, a bit over 13.5 million.

Is he crazy? (That’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is probably yes.) But until he’s institutionalized, the rest of us benefit greatly from both his stamina and his superior taste.

How do we know his taste is superb? Because he likes Black Gate, for one thing.

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Games vs Books

Sunday, January 17th, 2010 | Posted by Theo

I read in on a discussion led by a friend of mine who is an award-winning science fiction writer on his blog the other day.  He postulated that the relative decline of science fiction compared to fantasy is largely the fault of computer games.  After all, it’s hardly a secret that a) men buy far more computer games than women, b) women buy far more books than men, and c) women tend to prefer fantasy to science fiction.  It’s not my purpose to consider whether he is correct or not, but rather to go off on a tangential note.  After all, as a science fiction and fantasy writer as well as a game designer who has worked on both science fiction and fantasy games, I have no dog in this hunt.  Because, whether he is correct or not, there is another factor related to the two mediums that is likely to have even more significant ramifications. Read More »

Short Fiction Review #24: Realms of Fantasy February 2010

Saturday, January 16th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

currentissue-feb2010The new Realms of Fantasy coincides with the relaunch (as of December 11, 2009) of an actually informative website since Warren Lapine took over as publisher beginning with the August 2009 issue (and perhaps the fact that  the website of previous owner Sovereign Media was essentially just a placeholder was indicative of the company’s general lack of interest in the magazine that eventually led to its sale). There was a free PDF version of this bimonthly available for a time, but the link seems to have been taken down. Fans of Black Gate magazine in particular will no doubt appreciate the largely sword and sorcery, high fantasy type fiction, as well as the related non-fiction gaming, illustration and book genre reviews. Black Gate fans may also appreciate that their favorite magazine dispenses with high gloss interior color; for some reason the graphic designer(s) of the current RoF think that red and yellow headlines and callouts on a white background  make the magazine more visually interesting; I find it not only ugly, but in certain lighting, difficult to read.

Of interest to the broader science fiction and fantasy audience, however, is a Harlan Ellision® short story  featuring a curmudgeonly character undoubtedly intended to remind you of the copyrighted author. This is another in the genre’s seemingly endless fascination with the Frankenstein trope of the responsibilities between the creator and the created.  Ellison’s spin is to introduce the notion of the stupidity and bigotry of political correctness while tacking on two alternate endings reminiscent of classic Golden Age treatments of this theme from the 1950s/1960s. Actually, I thought the story worked well enough if it ended with “But I had been ignorant of the laws of human nature, and we both knew it was all my responsibility. The beginning,the term of the adventure, and now, the ending” (31) before it branches off to present conclusions from two different perspectives. The second has deeper philosophical implications, but for whatever visceral reasons I prefer the first one. No spoilers here — decide and discuss among  yourselves.

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Clark Ashton Smith

Friday, January 15th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones


I would hope by now that regular visitors to this site are aware of the fine work going on over at The Cimmerian. I try to visit the web site several times a week, as there’s always something of interest for the fantasy fan — particularly the heroic fiction fantasy fan, but frequently for any fan of fantasy.

This week The Cimmerian has really pulled out all the stops and launched a series of articles on Clark Ashton Smith.  He’s one of the big Weird Tales three (the other two being Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft) but he’s less frequently discussed and, until recently, has been harder to find in print. Fortunately Night Shade Books has been taking good care of Smith recently.

Why was Smith important? Well, you should probably bop over to The Cimmerian and read the excellent essays that prompted this post.  The posts start with this Wednesday’s entry. And if you’re not familiar with the site, please look deeply at a wealth of fine articles and essays, and make it a regular stop.

Robert Low’s The Wolf Sea

Friday, January 15th, 2010 | Posted by Bill Ward

wolf-seaThe Wolf Sea
Robert Low
Thomas Dunne Books — St. Martin’s Press (340 pages, Hardback, June 2008, First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins, $24.95)
Reviewed by Bill Ward

This follow-up to 2007’s The Whale Road, Robert Low’s debut novel of grim Viking adventurers questing for the lost horde of Attila the Hun, is a continuation of the story of the Oathsworn and their new and untested leader, Orm Rurisksson. Orm, still a teenager, earned a reputation as a ‘deep thinker’ amongst his Viking crew and was their choice for leader with the death of Einar the Black — the man who had led them on a doomed expedition to the very ends of the earth in the first book of this series.

The Wolf Sea begins in Miklagard — the Norse-termed ‘Great City’ of Constantinople — with the theft of the jeweled saber Orm rescued from the Volsung horde in The Whale Road.  Valuable in and of itself, perhaps even magical, the saber is also the key to finding Attila’s silver because Orm has carved its hilt with runes that will act as a guide should the Oathsworn ever return to the steppe. It turns out the saber has fallen into the hands of their old enemy, Starkad, who also seeks the fabulous treasure but has no idea that he possesses the key to finding it. Starkad is convinced that Martin, the venal priest that journeyed with the Oathsworn in their quest for Attila’s tomb, knows the way to the treasure and he sets off to the Holy Land to find him — with Orm and the Oathsworn in pursuit.
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Goth Chick News: Fractured Fairytales – A Review of Isis by Douglas Clegg

Thursday, January 14th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

isisDon’t talk to a wolf in your Grandma’s nighty, don’t take an apple from a creepy old lady and when in doubt, trust the house mice.

These are the very important lessons taught to us by fairytales, normally animated by Walt Disney and all with happy endings. However, when you read Isis, you’ll learn one more bit of indispensable wisdom: sometimes dead is better, and knowledge can come too late for a happy ending.

This seems to be the year for returning to old-fashioned scares, the kind that get into your head, and Douglas Clegg has done a masterful job at taking the horror story back to the campfire, or in this case, the Victorian mansion. Isis is the story of what appears to be, on the surface, a perfect and wealthy 19th century British family complete with doting mother, war-hero father, and precocious but loving children tended to by domestic servants. Belerion Hall is not a frightening but instead postcard-like stone manor house surrounded by lush gardens in which Iris and her beloved brother Harvey pass enchanted, summer afternoons.

However, things are never quite as they appear.

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SKULLS – Chapter 2

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz


For best viewing:

– Scroll to the right to see the entire comic page

– Hit your F11 key to maximize your viewing area

– Scroll down to read from page to page


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The Ship of Ishtar

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

ship-of-ishtar-piazoThe Ship of Ishtar
A. Merritt (Paizo Publishing, 2009)

I first read The Ship of Ishtar in a 1960s Avon paperback I found in a used bookstore in Phoenix. This copy is so brittle that I have to specially brace the book each time I open it or else the spine will separate like the San Andreas fault and the pages flutter down in a yellow autumn fall.

What I’m saying is . . . I’m extremely glad that Paizo Publishing has brought my favorite A. Merritt novel back into print in an edition that doesn’t make me afraid of the physical act of reading it. (Go buy it here.)

It’s strange that Abraham Merritt, one the biggest sellers in the history of speculative fiction, should need an introduction at all today, but sadly he does. Merritt was a journalist by vocation, the editor of The American Weekly, but his forays into writing ornate “scientific romances” starting with The Moon Pool in 1918–19 made him one of the most popular authors of the first half of the twentieth century. Today, he’s the realm of specialists, collectors, and his work is found in volumes from university publishers and small presses. In his introduction to Merritt’s breakthrough novel, The Moon Pool, Robert Silverberg pondered this turn of events that made Merritt obscure. What happened?

Silverberg offers up his own wonderings, ultimately finding the author’s eclipse inexplicable; but I think Merritt’s unusual mixture of two-fisted stalwart heroes in epic action with grandiose, mind-bending worlds of wonder painted in prose arabesques (and millions of exclamation marks!) makes him an author who doesn’t speak to mainstream genre readers today, even if he invented the clichés of countless contemporary fantasy authors. Clark Ashton Smith started as a specialty author and has remained there. Abraham Merritt was a mainstream writer who managed to Clark Ashton Smith himself after his death, ending up as a specialty author as well. Unfortunately, such is often the way of unusual talents. At least The Ship of Ishtar is now only a few clicks away for you to purchase and enjoy.

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Review Grab Bag

Monday, January 11th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Now that I’m earning my living as a writer rather than fitting writing on the edges of my life, I’ve had time to catch up on some reading for fun; I’ve also been playing some more Heroscape with my kids. I’ve only been at this since the new year, but I’ve leapt into the saddle and spurred forward.

First up were two Warhammer omnibuses, Genevieve, by Jack Yeovil (pseudonym of Kim Newman), and Blackhearts, by Nathan Long. I’d started them over the last few years and gotten distracted and very busy. I recently picked up both and pretty much devoured them.

Being omnibuses, each is a compilation of several books and related short stories or novellas.  And being Warhammer fantasy, they’re both set in a sort of fantastic imperial Austria, where magic works, albeit darkly, and there are elves, dwarves, and other supernatural creatures — most especially the powers of chaos — both on the fringes of civilization and working against it from within. Each is somehow available and in print for around $10.00,  and each weighs in at around 760 pages.  Considering how good both books are, the price point for the value within is almost criminal.

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