Blogging The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer – Part One: “The Zayat Kiss”

Sunday, February 14th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on March 7, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

ZayatInColliersinsidious 1Arthur Henry Ward was born in England in 1883. His father hoped his son would make his way through life as a respectable businessman, but young Arthur was determined to make a name for himself as an author. He discovered immortality with the invention of two unlikely monikers that conjured an air of exotic intrigue when they debuted in print a century ago. The first was his chosen pen name, Sax Rohmer and the second was the name of the character at the heart of his first published novel, Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Over the years, the name lost its hyphen and became synonymous with the moustache artists and actors always depicted the character as wearing despite the fact that he was always described in print as clean-shaven. Dr. Fu-Manchu is a brilliant and honorable scientist who is opposed to British colonial interference in the East. Using a variety of fiendish inventions, insects, and assassins, he sets out to remove Western influence and silence those who know too much about the East. Most intriguing in our post-9/11 world, the Devil Doctor chooses to fight his battles not in China, but on British soil using terror as his weapon. He is opposed in his efforts by stalwart British colonialist Nayland Smith and Smith’s bodyguard and Fu-Manchu’s chronicler, Dr. Petrie. Rohmer’s stories spanned five decades moving in real time with his characters aging alongside their author. For much of the first half of the last century, Dr. Fu-Manchu was the villain readers loved to hate.

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Superhero TV: Watching Supergirl With a 10-Year Old

Saturday, February 13th, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

supergirl - 1

From my point of view, Marvel has been dominating the superhero movie business. Doing my best to raise a better nerd, I’ve showed the best movies to my son (Avengers, Cap, Iron Man I and II, Ant-Man, etc). I’ve heard good things about Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, but I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it with no superheroes. So what’s left for Papa + Boy + popcorn movie night?

I’ve been hearing great things about DC TV: Arrow, Flash and Supergirl. Arrow comes with a PG rating and my son hasn’t been desensitized to violence yet, so I parked that one and all the bullet casings used in its filming.

Then I thought: should I start with the Flash or Supergirl?

I knew he would love the Flash. That’s a no-brainer. Even talking about someone who can run faster than the speed of sound is something that gets his heart tripping. But, thought I, if he loves the Flash, what happens when I show him Supergirl? Will he feel it’s a step down?

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On the Trail of the Octopus

Saturday, February 13th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Serial Squadron DVDseriados-the-trail-of-the-octopus-posterEric Stedman of The Serial Squadron has a well-deserved reputation for restoring vintage serials (in many cases salvaging otherwise lost serials) and preserving them for posterity. As Sax Rohmer’s 133rd birthday is rapidly approaching, I thought I would turn our attention to a vintage 1919 serial that borrowed quite a few elements from Rohmer’s work, The Trail of the Octopus. The Serial Squadron released their restored version of this forgotten gem in 2012.

The original serial produced by Hallmark Pictures nearly a century earlier comprises 15 chapters. The serial is centered around an Asian criminal mastermind, Wang Foo (known as “The Octopus”) who commands an international gang of Egyptians, Chinese, Africans, Turks, Jews, even a cult of devil worshippers in pursuit of an ancient Egyptian artifact, the Sacred Talisman of Set. While Fu Manchu was the head of an international secret society that contained Europeans as well as Asians and Arabs, it’s impossible not to see that The Octopus commands all of the stereotypical foreign and/or exotic elements feared by white Europeans just after the First World War.

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The Power That Preserves by Stephen R. Donaldson

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_82298T7OJJLQ9And so we come to the end of the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (follow the links to read my reviews of the previous two books, Lord Foul’s Bane and The Illearth War). While not an upbeat book by any degree The Power That Preserves (1977) provides a satisfying and hope-filled conclusion to a series heretofore characterized mostly by loss and despair. Those elements still figure heavily in this story, but this time around they more clearly serve to prepare Covenant for the confrontation with Lord Foul.

The events of the crushing, sorrow-filled The Illearth War have left Thomas Covenant a broken man. He is pulled back and forth by the weight of what he did and his continued disbelief in the Land’s reality. Compelled by his reawakening need for human contact, he falls into a sort of madness and takes to haunting the woods and backstreets of his town, a place from which he’s been exiled because of people’s fear of his disease. When he stops taking the meds that suppress it, his leprosy is triggered.

While trying to save a little girl being menaced by a timber snake Covenant is summoned to the Land by the new High Lord, Mhoram. Under command of the Raver-possessed Giant, Satansfist, a vast army has destroyed Revelwood and laid siege to Revelstone. For weeks Lord Foul has called down perpetual winter on the Land and sent packs of marauders to kill any who defy his will.

Covenant insists he will help the Land, but must be allowed to return home and save the girl first. He does, but is poisoned himself. Once he’s satisfied she is safe, he says, “Come and get me. It’s over now.,” and is brought back to the Land. But he doesn’t arrive back in front of the Lords and inside the besieged Revelstone. Instead, he is called back to Kevin’s Watch where he first arrived in the Land in Lord Foul’s Bane. This time he has been summoned by Triock, one-time suitor of Lena (the woman he raped), and the Giant Saltheart Foamfollower. After he helps them fight off a vicious attack on Mithil Stonedown, Covenant decides the time has finally come to take a stand.

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Self-Published Book Review: Carnifex by D. P. Prior

Sunday, February 7th, 2016 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw

CarnifexThe self-published book review is back! As you may remember, I went on a hiatus while I worked on a new project. Now that the open reading period for Mysterion is over, I can focus my reading time on other matters. Among them, self-published books I’m reviewing. If you have a book you’d like me to review, please see this post for instructions to submit.

A while back, I reviewed D.P. Prior’s The Nameless Dwarf. At the time I complained about not being able to find the earlier books in the series. It may be, however, that the earlier books didn’t exist, as Carnifex has only been recently published, and it is very much one of the prequels that The Nameless Dwarf was missing. In fact, the title gives away the biggest secret of the original, Nameless’s original name. It is a name which is also a prophecy, as Carnifex means butcher.

The soon-to-be-nameless dwarf lives with his brother and father in Arx Gravis, the city of dwarves hidden in a ravine. No one is allowed to come or go from the city without the express permission of the council, and they never allow any dwarf to leave. The only person who can come and go at will is the human philosopher, Aristodeus.

Carnifex Thane is a member of the Ravine Guard, a police force as well as a border patrol, and given how peaceful and isolated the city is, the guard seldom has much to do. That changes quickly when a homunculus sneaks into the Scriptorium, where he may have tampered with the Archives of the dwarves’ history. This is followed by a golem invading the mines, and suddenly the city is in an uproar with the fear that there may be more coming. Lucius, Carnifex’s brother, has a solution: the Pax Nanorum. The Axe of the Dwarf Lords was lost ages ago, but may be the key to fighting the golems. But the records of its location are contradictory: is it lost in the pits of Gehenna beneath Arx Gravis, or forgotten in sunken Arnoch, city of the Dwarf Lords? Which is the true history, and which is but myth, or worse, the result of the homunculus’s tampering? The answer may be the difference between the salvation and destruction of the dwarves. Whichever is true, leaving Arx Gravis without the express permission of the council is a death sentence at the hands of the Black Cloaks, the city’s secret police, spies, and assassins. One of whom has a personal grudge against Carn.

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Pulp-era Gumshoes and Queen Victoria’s Underwear: Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear by Lucy Addlington

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page


…boots-on-the-ground anecdotes about living and loving in period costume.

Did you know that men used to wear falsies?

Not for their chests, but for their calves. Back in the 18th-century, men wore stockings and knee-britches, and if you didn’t have well-turned calf muscles, then you were a “spindle shank.” So some men with skinny legs wore little cushions.

Which leads us to the young soldier Jean-Roche Coignet, seduced by an older woman, thus beset by the excruciating problem of how to hide his “wretched false calves and… three pairs of stockings.” He managed to blow out the candle and stash them under the pillow. However, what was he going to do in the morning..?

That’s perhaps the raciest story in Stitches in Time: The Story of the Clothes We Wear, Lucy Addlington’s follow up to the exquisite Great War Fashion, but gives you a sense of how she laces the book with boots-on-the-ground anecdotes about living and loving in period costume. She also scatters it with quirky side notes. Did you know, for example, that there is a market for Queen Victoria’s underwear? I’ve very glad the publishers sent me a review copy.

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Frankenstein and R. J. Myers’ Domination Fantasies

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on May 30, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

Myers Slave 2Myers Slave 1A couple weeks ago I reviewed R. J. Myers’ The Cross of Frankenstein. It was the respected political commentator’s first foray into fiction. He followed it with a sequel, 1976’s The Slave of Frankenstein and despite the promise of a third book, his only other genre efforts were a late seventies soft-core vampire title and a privately-published guide to blood-drinking as an alternative lifestyle.

I always feel a pang of guilt when I come down hard on a fellow pastiche writer. I’ve been on the receiving end of disappointed Sax Rohmer and Conan Doyle fans who felt I had no business continuing the adventures of characters they love. At the same time, I believe I have been fair and honest in my assessments when reviewing pastiches. I have the utmost respect for Joe Gores, Michael Hardwick, Cay Van Ash, and Freda Warrington as writers who tried hard to stay true to the original author in terms of style and spirit. I can still enjoy Peter Tremayne and Basil Copper who, despite falling short of the mark, can still spin an entertaining yarn. Consequently, I feel justified when I confine Myers to the lowest pit of literary Hell alongside Ian Holt and Richard Jaccoma for The Slave of Frankenstein, while a very different beast than Myers’ first effort, is equally contemptible.

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Undying Compassion and Fearless Ecoterrorism: Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by Zeta Moore

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind box-smallNausicaa of the Valley of Wind will exceed your expectations. You must have many, what with the comics having been written by Hayao Miyazaki.

Prepare to ask yourself what lengths you would go to save your world from destroying itself, and prepare to detest characters who at first seem like antagonists but then prove that no one is wholly good or bad. More than anything, prepare to fall in love with Nausicaa, one of the most compassionate heroines ever to exist on paper.

The love within an individual who possesses as much compassion as she does can overcome any struggle born from hate. She does so without ceasing. Her story is told within the span of four graphic novels, and they do indeed read like novels.

The people of the Valley of Wind cherish their princess. She lives for them as much as she lives for her world. When the Ohmu, a group of insects inhabiting her world, begin a perilous journey, her compassion compels her to follow.

She then embarks on an endless journey through myriad wars, all the while attempting to bring them all to an end. Along the way, we meet memorable characters such as Kushana, an invincible warlord with a past worthy of a comic of its own and her sidekick, Kurotowa, who could do without Nausicaa. Not everyone shares his sentiments, least of all Lord Yupa, her uncle who adores her and remains by her side through much of the story.

The same can be said for Asbel, a young pilot who devotes much of his time to locating Nausicaa. His superior, an elderly pilot named Mito, guides him through life and acts as the father figure he needs.

This brings me to the relationship between Ketcha, Asbel’s younger sister, and Lord Yupa, whom she encounters with her brother. He remains devoted to her throughout the story, and their friendship mirrors that of his connection to Nausicaa.

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A Crossover Too Far

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Combined-ForcesBulldog_Drummond_1st_edition_cover,_1920A. J. Smithers is a respected author of fiction and non-fiction titles with a special dedication to the Clubland fiction of Dornford Yates, John Buchan, and H. C. “Sapper” McNeile. His 1983 novel, Combined Forces was subtitled Being the Latter-Day Adventures of Richard Hannay, “Bulldog” Drummond, and Berry and Co. Clubland literary scholar Richard Usborne praised the book and Smithers’ willingness to expose the dark sides of its characters’ lives. Wold Newtonians sometimes seek out this rare work because of the literary crossover within its pages. I approached the book first as a Bulldog Drummond completist and secondly as a fan of Richard Hannay.

While most people know of The Thirty-Nine Steps thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated film version, they are unaware of how different the character of Richard Hannay is in John Buchan’s fiction. Most are unaware that Hannay appeared in a total of seven spy thriller novels by Buchan published between 1915 and 1940. Unlike many long-running series, Buchan chose to have Hannay age in real time and grow as a person as he marries and settles down and even retires. Buchan’s approach appears to have influenced some of Gerald Fairlie’s modifications to Hugh Drummond’s character and life as he continued the series after Sapper’s death.

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Book Pairings: Sorcerer to the Crown and My Beautiful Enemy

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

BGsorcerer-to-the-crownYou know, way back when, I had such MASTERFUL IDEAS for this ongoing Book Pairings blog. I had A List. It was great.

Unfortunately, I texted it to John O’Neill Once Upon a Hallowed Age, and then promptly forgot all about it. Sneaking back up to the idea now, I realize that I read all those books Oh So Very Long Ago, and I’d have to read them all over again in order to do the pairings properly.

Not that it would be a bad thing…

BGQueenVictoriaI’d gotten off to a pretty good start with my first book pairing, which compared Ancillary Justice and Cordelia’s Honor, and my second, when I stood an anthology called Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells side by side with Sharon Shinn’s Royal Airs.

They were BRILLIANT! And long. And then I sort of… pooped out.

I dunno. I got busy. New job. Crowdfunded for/put together a couple of EPs. Short story collection came out. Where did 2015 GO anyway?

But recently, I read this BEAUTIFUL book– and it reminded me of this OTHER great book, and I just had to write about them.

You know they’re good when you HAVE to write about ’em, right?

Okay! Okay! Since all y’all at Black Gate love your Sword and Sorcery, OH HEAVENS TO MURGATROID, have I got a pairing for you!

One of each. One Sword. One Sorcery. Full of WOMEN! And WIT! And SUBVERSIVE WORLD VIEWS! And, oh, yes — LE ROMANCE, MES PETITES!!!

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. And My Beautiful Enemy, by Sherry Thomas.

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