Godzilla Raids Again/Gigantis the Fire Monster (1955)

Saturday, January 19th, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

godzilla-raids-again-japanese-poster-1It was disheartening to sum up the recent Godzilla anime trilogy, the only Japanese Godzilla films I never plan to rewatch. Even with the Hollywood mega-millions epic Godzilla: King of the Monsters only a few months away, the feeling of deflation within my favorite movie franchise made it necessary for me to plug a bit of hope into my schedule immediately. Not by watching a great Godzilla film, mind you, but by watching a mediocre Godzilla film. Why? Because it’s the best way to remember how even lesser entries in the series can offer some enjoyment. Like watching Godzilla actually move. This is a radical concept the anime filmmakers let slip past them.

Thus I present Godzilla Raids Again, a middle-of-the-road G-movie that’s mostly faded into obscurity despite its prime position as the first Godzilla sequel.

To date, Toho Studios has released thirty-two feature-length Godzilla films. In any series with such longevity, a few installments slip off the pop culture radar. But it’s almost never the second movie that suffers this fate. The first sequel to a smash hit, regardless of quality, is a major event. The many films that come after are where the grayness of oblivion sets in.

Yet Godzilla Raids Again, released in 1955 only six months after the original, is one of the least seen of the Showa Era Godzilla movies. Many viewers outside Japan are unaware it exists. If they are, they may not know it’s a Godzilla film at all because it was released in the US and much of the rest of the world as Gigantis the Fire Monster. Godzilla’s name not only vanished from the title, it vanished from the dubbing. Not until 2006 did a North American DVD containing both the Japanese and US versions bring the film out with the classic monster’s name reattached. The DVD producers digitally superimposed the title Godzilla Raids Again over the spot where Gigantis the Fire Monster once appeared … although the dubbing with the name “Gigantis” remained.

How Godzilla became Gigantis and then pulled a cultural vanishing act is quite the tale. But let’s first look at the actual Godzilla Raids Again, which is its own strange story and a stopgap moment in the early history of the Japanese giant monster (kaiju) film.

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Mage: The Hero Denied 14

Friday, January 18th, 2019 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage 14So we’re down to the penultimate issue of the entire Mage trilogy. Obviously, I’m not expecting any big reveals until the very last issue, so this one is just going to let things simmer just a little bit further until the boil.

We begin with the reveal that Magda and Hugo did NOT kill a Gracklethorn last issue, instead just knocking her out. When two of her sisters find her, they set her free, then start squabbling about what to do about their prisoners escaping. Their argument is interrupted when Karol walks in holding the Fisher King.

The scene shifts to Hugo and Magda walking through a cavern. Magda mentions that the doorway they entered through disappeared, so they can’t go back the way they came. She then reasons that “it had an entrance, which means that it has to have an exit as well.” And while that’s not technically true, she’s likely just saying that to calm her son. Up next, Hugo sees a troll with his magic glasses and knocks it off a cliff with a magic light bulb before it can sneak up on his mother. Before they can go any further, Magda’s wedding ring lights up, which apparently signifies that it’s detected Kevin nearby.

We cut to a scene of Kevin holding Excalibur, which suggests that the Magda’s ring didn’t detect him so much as detect the ignition of his magic. After killing what looks like the entire Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, Kevin is asked by Mirth if he’s all right. It’s at this point that Kevin mentions (for I believe the first time in this series) that his hands sometimes hurt after he uses his power. Mirth explains that, while Kevin’s power continues to grow, it will become more than he can handle. As Kevin, Mirth, and Miranda continue through the caves, we see the little imp hiding behind a rock, observing them.

Cut back to the Fisher King, who explains that he’s finally come out of hiding so that he can bear witness to the “moment of confluence.” He does a whole nine-panel spread of shape-shifting to show that he can assume a variety of forms and a variety of names and that none of them really matter. Olga is about to kill him, when Karol reminds her that the Umbra Sprite needs him alive for the ritual. This is the ritual that the Umbra Sprite has been planning since the very beginning of Hero Discovered. Of course, at this point, the Gracklethorns have no idea where their mother is or how to reach her.

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Three Miles Around but Infinitely Deep: Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 | Posted by James Van Pelt

Mythago Wood Grafton-small Mythago Wood Berkley-small Mythago Wood Avon-small

Here’s a shout-out for one of my favorite books, Robert Holdstock’s amazing, 1985, World Fantasy award winning novel Mythago Wood. Holdstock’s book dovetailed neatly with my other favorite of that time, David Brin’s The Postman.

I really can’t recommend Mythago Wood enough. In a time when everyone else was echoing Tolkien, Holdstock created a completely different take on fantasy (rural fantasy — if that’s a genre). I loved this story of two brothers, their estranged and absent father, and a patch of wood that was only three miles around but infinitely deep.

Of all the books I’ve read, none has impacted me as strongly at the end as this novel. Endings are hard, so when I read a perfect one, I take notice.

Stylistically, Holdstock nailed it too. I didn’t notice the smoothness and rhythm of his work at first, but on subsequent rereads I paid much more attention to his sentence and paragraph building. He has taught me a lot. If you are looking for an outstanding read to start your 2019, give Mythago Wood a try.

I’m always looking for my next, great novel. Do you have a recommendation of a book that exists in your personal canon of classics?


Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018) Brings the Anime Trilogy to a Dreary End

Saturday, January 12th, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

godzilla-planet-eater-japanese-posterThis whole thing has been a lot of pixels over nothing.

Interesting possibilities glimmered in the first two films of the animated Godzilla trilogy, Godzilla: The Planet of Monsters and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. But the final installment has arrived, premiering on Netflix this Wednesday, and now the whole enterprise reveals itself as a water-treading, self-proselytizing, character-inhibited, medium-wasting drag. This hasn’t been a bit of fun. There are no moments of elation or astonishment. In fact, Godzilla has hardly moved. I think the monster budged about ten feet the entirety of this last movie — and that includes during the climactic clash with Ghidorah, the only other kaiju to wander into the trilogy.

Godzilla fought Ghidorah — and for the first time ever, I didn’t care.

It astonishes me how static this “animated” film is. If you want your anime about a giant monster on an apocalyptic Earth to start with thirty minutes of talking heads debating the same philosophical ideas without doing anything about them, and then climax with more talking heads discussing a still-life of two monsters, Godzilla: The Planet Eater (Gojira: Hoshi o Kuu Mono) is the movie for you. I.e. it’s a movie for nobody, Godzilla fans least of all.

Godzilla: The Planet Eater ends a story that started as an intriguing concept. Not only would the trilogy bring Godzilla to anime for the first time, where budget couldn’t block the imagination of the filmmakers, but it would place Godzilla in the fresh setting of an apocalyptic science-fantasy future. When I first heard the series synopsis — the human race returns to a Godzilla-conquered Earth after an exile in the stars — it got my imagination churning. I envisioned an Edgar Rice Burroughs or Andre Norton environment with the colorful wildness of some of the Godzilla comics.

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Rescued from the Vaults of Time: The Sapphire Goddess – The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_801451Zc9o2K4DDave Ritzlin, impresario of DMR Books, has rescued another writer from the distant, fog-obscured days of pulp fantasy. He has done for Nictzin Dyalhis as he did for the nearly-forgotten Clifford Ball (reviewed by me here). If you, like most people, have no idea who Dyalhis was, Ritzlin presents as much information as is available in an excellent introduction to The Sapphire Goddess (2018), his new collection of all nine of the author’s fantasy and science fiction stories.

A quote from the introduction:

Even though Nictzin Dyalhis was the eccentric author’s legal name at that time, it’s highly unlikely he was named that way at birth. He claimed that “Nictzin” was a Toltec Indian name and “Dyalhis” was an old English (or, alternately, Welsh) surname. Neither of these claims is true. Many speculated that his real name was Nicholas Douglas or Nicholas Dallas or something similar, which he modified into something more exotic.

Nonetheless, Weird Tales publisher Farnsworth Wright swore to Donald Wandrei that all the checks for Dyalhis’s stories “were made out to that name.” Whatever the reality, there’s something wonderfully perfect about a fantasist being remembered solely by a name of mysterious origins.

The nine stories in The Sapphire Goddess were published between 1925 and 1940. Eight were published in Weird Tales, with only “He Refused to Stay Dead” published in another magazine, Ghost Stories. Save for the explicitly sci-fi “When the Green Star Waned” and its sequel “The Oath of Hul Jok”, they are a mix of horror and heroic fantasy. Running through most of them is a theme of reincarnation or forgotten past lived in another dimension.

“When the Green Star Waned” (1925) and “The Oath of Hul Jok” (1928) are two adventures of the planet Venhez’s greatest heroes. The first concerns a journey to the now-silent planet Aerth to determine why no one’s heard anything from its inhabitants in years. Dyalhis’s first published story, it’s not an especially finely-wrought story, but it is very successful at creating a nightmare atmosphere, made all the more malevolent with horrible semi-material monsters from the dark side of the moon. It also seems to have introduced the word Blastor for ray guns. That alone is a more than worthy legacy for any pulp story.

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Sky Pirates and Interstellar Wars: The Black Star Passes by John W. Campbell

Friday, January 4th, 2019 | Posted by James Enge

The Black Star Passes-small The Black Star Passes-back-small

Art by Chris Foss

This was the cover of the paperback I had as a youth — still my favorite thing that Campbell published under his own name (with The Moon is Hell running a close second).

Campbell’s best stuff is unquestionably the work he published as Don A. Stuart (e.g. “Who Goes There?”, “Twilight,” “The Elder Gods,” etc). And the heroes of this series, Arcot & Morey, are chemically free from any trace of personality.

But the same is not true of their partner Wade, who appears in the first story “Piracy Preferred” (from Amazing Stories, June 1930) as a super-scientist sky pirate, and after he is cured of his criminal tendencies becomes a valuable and prankish member of the team.

The title story in The Black Star Passes (from Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1930), tells the tale of an interstellar war. But the bad guys are not simply ravening bug-beasts from beyond the void, and the story ends without the happy genocide so common in space opera. (“YAY! We have destroyed an entire intelligent species with our superior science knowhow! Too bad they weren’t Civilized, like us!”) In Campbell’s story, the invaders are defeated, but the collective effort involved in the invasion saves their civilization.


A Bible-Sized Bildungsroman: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Strange the Dreamer-smallNone of the other orphans at the monastery want to go anywhere near Brother Cyrus. Babbling nonsense, he grabs them by the wrists and holds them for hours.

But foundling Lazlo Strange volunteers to take the monk all his meals. That’s because, in the midst of his babble, Brother Cyrus tells stories. He speaks of an Unseen City, a magical place tiled in lapis lazuli where tame white stags pace the streets beside beautiful women with long black hair, and giant lizards float in the canals.

Strange is a dreamer, so these stories work on him like a baited hook. He yearns to visit the Unseen City, even though he knows he never can. Foreigners are caught at the front gate and executed. No one who tries to go ever returns. And two hundred years ago, even the caravans from the Unseen City stopped circulating, as though the civilization disappeared completely.

Once, while Lazlo is playing, some strange feat of magic strips the Unseen City’s true name from his mind. In its place is a new name:

Weep.

Growing up and becoming a young man, Lazlo escapes the monastery to work at a library, where he can surround himself with stories all day. Even during his free time, he plunges into the tales, looking for clues about Weep. Painstakingly, he writes his findings down, filling volumes with his own accounts of life in the Unseen City. Over the course of seven years, he teaches himself their language, assembling sounds, words, and phrases from book-keeping receipts and other fragments.

In the course of his studies, he stumbles across the secret to turning lead into gold. But instead of taking credit for this discovery himself, he quietly passes the information to the queen’s godson, Thyon Nero, who runs an alchemical laboratory.

Rather than being thankful, however, Nero considers killing Lazlo to preserve the secret of alchemy, as well as to ensure his own continued fame as an alchemist.

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Birthday Reviews: December Index

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Rudolph Belarski

Cover by Rudolph Belarski

Cover by John Picacio

Cove by John Picacio

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

The final Birthday Review Index.

And so the journey begun on January 1 with a review of E.M. Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops” has come to an end, 367 reviews and approximately 166,183 words later, plus a few extra guest reviews and words by Rich Horton and Bob Byrne. There was one date I couldn’t find someone to review (we need authors born on March 8) and I goofed on a couple of authors and wound up writing replacement reviews. Edward Page Mitchell holds the joint distinction of the earliest birth among the reviewed authors, on March 24, 1852, and the earliest published work, with his “The Clock That Went Backward” published in 1881. Rachel Swirsky in the most recently born author reviewed with Steve Perry’s “A Few Minutes in the Plantation Bar and Grill Outside Woodville, Mississippi” published in January 2018 being the most recently published story. I reviewed two stories entitled “Cat” and two stories entitled “Little Red in the Hood.”

January index
February index
March index
April index
May index
June index
July index
August index
September index
October index
November index

December 1, Jo Walton: “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction
December 2, Jerry Sohl: “Death in Transit
December 3, John Dalmas: “In the Bosom of His Family
December 4, Kurt R.A. Giambasitani: “Intaglio
December 5, John Decles: “The Power of Kings
December 6, Roger Dees: “Worlds Within WorldsEchoes of Pride

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Birthday Reviews: Connie Willis’s “D.A.”

Monday, December 31st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by James Gurney

Cover by James Gurney

Connie Willis was born on December 31, 1945.

Willis has won the Hugo Award eleven times and the Nebula Award seven times. Her joint winners include the short story “Even the Queen,” the novelette “Fire Watch,” the novella “The Last of the Winnebagos,” and the novel Doomsday Book and the two-part novel Blackout/All Clear. Her Nebula only wins were the short story “A Letter from the Clearys” and the novelette “At the Rialto.” Her Hugo wins were for the short stories “Death on the Nile” and “The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: A Wellsian Perspective,” the novellas “The Winds of Marble Arch,” “Inside Job,” and “All Seated on the Ground,” and the novel To Say Nothing of the Dog. Her novel Lincoln’s Dreams won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. To Say Nothing of the Dog also won the Prix Ozone, Kurd Lasswitz Preis, and Ignotus Award. Doomsday Book also won the Ignotus and Kurd Lasswitz. Willis won additional Ignotus Awards for the stories “Even the Queen,” “Why the World Didn’t End Last Tuesday,” and in 2000, her stories “Nonstop to Portales” and “Chance” tied each other.

Willis won the Forry Award from LASFS in 1999 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2011 she received the Robert A. Heinlein Award from the Heinlein Society. She was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2012. Willis was the guest of honor at LACon IV, the 64th Worldcon, held in Los Angeles in 2006 and served as Toastmaster at the 2011 World Fantasy Con in San Diego.

“D.A.” was written for the anthology Space Cadets, published in coordination with LACon IV, the Worldcon, in 2006 where Willis was guest of honor and edited by Mike Resnick. It was selected by Jonathan Strahan for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume One and was also reprinted as a chapbook by Subterranean Press in 2007. In 2018 it was included in the Connie Willis collection Terra Incognita, published by Del Rey.

In the distant future, Theodora is a high school student whose goal is to get into UCLA, unlike most of the students in her class who hope to get an appointment to become a cadet at the Academy to go into space. Unfortunately for her classmates, only 300 people are selected for the Academy each year, so when one of the students at Theodora’s school is selected, it is a major event and a mandatory assembly is held. To everyone’s surprise, Theodora is announced as the lucky appointee, despite the fact that she never applied and didn’t go through the interview process.

The strongest points of the story are when Willis looks at Theodora’s attempts to figure out how she managed to get into the Academy and get acclimatized, or fight against getting acclimatized, to life in outer space. Her only lifeline and support is her friend Kimkim, back on Earth and using her prodigious hacking skills to open a line of communication with Theodora and try to help her work her way through the Academy.

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Birthday Reviews: Somtow Sucharitkul’s “Dr. Rumpole”

Sunday, December 30th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Realms of Fantasy, 8/98

Realms of Fantasy, 8/98

Somtow Sucharitkul was born on December 30, 1952. He also writes using the pseudonym S.P. Somtow. In addition to writing science fiction, Sucharitkul is a successful composer and conductor, including the opera The Snow Dragon, which debuted in Milwaukee in 2015, and five symphonies.

In 1981 Sucharitkul won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He has published as both Somtow Sucharitkul and S.P. Somtow and won the World Fantasy Award for his novella “The Bird Catcher” in 2002. His short story “Brimstone and Salt” won the International Horror Guild Award in 1997. He has also been nominated for the Hugo Award twice, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He also won the Silpathorn Kittikhun Award, presented by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture of Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. Sucharitkul was guest of honor at the 15th World Fantasy Con, held in Seattle in 1989.

The story “Dr. Rumpole” was published for the first time when Shawna McCarthy printed the story in the August 1998 issue of Realms of Fantasy. Sucharitkul included the story in his 2000 collection Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales from L.A..

Sucharitkul takes a new spin on the story of Rumpelstiltskin in “Dr. Rumpole,” casting the princess with the impossible task as Adam Villacin, a wannabe screenwriter stuck in the mailroom at Stupendous Entertainment. When he happens to meet the studio head in an elevator, his friend’s fast-talking gets him an assignment as a script doctor. If he can’t turn a turkey of a script into a hit overnight, he’ll lose his job. Into this scenario comes Dr. Rumple, a mythic script doctor who can fix any script. However, he takes everything Villacin is paid for his scripts.

Just as Sucharitkul and the reader are aware that the story is a re-telling of the story of Rumpelstiltskin, the characters also compare their situation to the fairy tale. Knowing how the fairy ends, they also know what they need to do in order to avoid the threat that Dr. Rumpole could conceivably pose for Villacin and his friend/agent, Bobby Detweiler. The story works because Sucharitkul doesn’t follow the formula slavishly. Rumpole’s name doesn’t matter, but it is when Villacin and Detweiler uncover his past that they figure out a way to get out from under his thumb.

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