FORGOTTEN BOOK: EARTHMAN’S BURDEN by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson, 1957
This is the 137th in my series of Forgotten Books.
Hoka! If you recognize that word you know what fun is. If not, I envy you. Great humorous science fiction is hard to come by. Particularly since humor is very subjective. I do not like the films of a number of the new comedians, but most particularly, I do not like Adam Sandler. I know this is a personal fault, but I have no desire to fix it. Others I can tolerate to some degree like Will Ferrell, but Sandler, NO! Not gonna happen. Perhaps one day that will change. But then pigs may fly also.
Back to the Hoka. “The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch” (the first Hoka story) takes place on the planet Toka where two species of sentient being exist, the reptilian Slissii and the Hoka who appear to be small golden furred rotund teddy bears. Mankind generally found itself attracted to the Hoka and a plan was made to help bring them up to galactic standards to attain full membership in the Interbeing League. Young spaceman Alexander Jones finds himself stranded on the planet in the middle of a B movie western thriller. The Hoka, it seems, have trouble separating fact and fiction and someone has inadvertently left a pile of pulp fiction on the planet. Every other young Hoka is named Tex or the Kid and they have gunfights in the street at high noon each day. Of course, no one is killed because that is not in the Hoka’s makeup. They embrace every possible idea fully and believe it has always been that way, even if it changed only yesterday. Not so the Slissii! They can and will kill. And they would love to be rid of the teddy bears that share their planet. Jones, in a drunken mood from highly potent Hoka liquor, helps the cowboy Hokas defeat the Indians and finds himself as Plenipotentiary to Toka for the Interbeing League.
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Forgotten Films: Iron Sky (2012)
This is the 106th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
As I mentioned with SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, some local SF fans had a potential Hugo nominees viewing party so they could decide how to nominate, this was one of the films screened. It did not get the same type of reaction as SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. In fact, they stopped the film about 30 minutes into the screening and decided to cleanse their brains on another film.
Since I missed that showing but had seen the initial teaser preview on the web some years ago which I had thought was pretty durn good, I decided to check the film out and see how bad it really was. The answer is “mostly bad” but not unwatchable. You can either stop here or continue on.
The premise is wonderfully ludicrous. At the end of 1945, the Nazis made a secret moon launching, sending a colony of people to the dark side of the moon where they established a base to work on secret projects. For more than 60 years, this colony has been self sustaining and thriving, building their doomsday projects and awaiting a chance to return to the Earth and establish the Fourth Reich.
The film opens with a US moon landing featuring two astronauts, one of whom is an African American male model, James Washington (Christopher Kirby), sent for PR purposes. The other astronaut is killed immediately and Washington is taken by the Nazis into their fortress where he is Aryanized (turned white!). Here he meets the Nazis. Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Udo Kier) is the new Fuhrer. Doktor Richter (Tilo Prückner) is the chief scientist and his daughter Renate (Julia Dietz) teaches the young Aryans their history and heritage, though this may differ in many ways from the way we remember it. Of course, history is written by the survivors and this may have influenced their versions of events. Fuhrer in waiting Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) has been chosen as Renate’s fiancé based on genetic capability.
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LOST GIRL OF THE LAKE by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty, 2012
This is the 136th in my series of Forgotten Books.
It has been a while since I did a review of San Antonio’s Stoker winning novelist Joe McKinney. I believe I reviewed QUARANTINED about two years ago. Joe is a writer many of you may not know, but you should. He is very good and every book and story shows him improving. His co-author Michael McCarty was someone I had not read before but the combination is a winner.
It is 1961 and Mark Gaitlin lives in Houston with his family. His dad is a successful lawyer. Each year they have to go to east Texas for a big get together. This is on Lake Livingston and the town of Gaitlinville which was established by his great-grandparents and which is now a ghost town. Mark is 15, awkward and unsure and out of place at the gathering. No one he wants to meet is his age. The older girls (friends of his 17 year old sister) just roll their eyes if he comes near and he is bored and wishing he was anywhere else.
One night near the lake he encounters a young woman, near his age, swimming nude on the lake. She invites him in and he, being 15, decides to accept. The encounter is electric and he is intrigued about the possibilities of sex. But there are snakes about, copperheads which flourish in the region.
He discovers the woman’s name is Ermelinda and he likes what he sees and wants more. But when he touches her breast, she pushes him away and vanishes. The woman becomes his obsession. He wants to see her again. She shows him a bolus of snakes, a round ball of snakes copulating, and he is fascinated. There is something earthy and forbidden here. And teenage angst and lust are powerful forces.
Continue reading FORGOTTEN BOOK: LOST GIRL OF THE LAKE by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty, 2012 »
Forgotten Films: Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
This is the 105th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films.
It starts simply enough with an ad in a magazine:
WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
I saw the previews for this several times in the artsy theater in town (as opposed to the googleplex). The ad was catchy, much like 2012’s other odd SF film FRANK AND ROBOT which I also saw. However, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED came and went in about 48 hours and I missed it totally,
When some local SF fans were having a potential Hugo nominees viewing party so they could decide how to nominate, this was one of the films screened. It got a good reaction. Again, I missed seeing it. But the buzz was good enough that I put it on my ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation. However, my vote did not have enough siblings to get the film onto the ballot. Nonetheless, I decided to watch it from Netflix and my lovely wife decided it was probably enough of a chick flick that she would watch too,
The film starts with an editorial meeting at SEATTLE MAGAZINE as editors and writers try to come up with stories for the upcoming issues. Writer Jeff pulls out this ad which has been placed in the magazine and wants to follow up on it for laughs. The address given is a PO Box in Ocean View, Washington and Jeff wants to track down the person who placed it and get the story. To do the heavy lifting he brings along two interns and Arnau (Karan Soni) and Darius (Aubrey Plaza) or, as he put it the Indian and the lesbian. Continue reading FORGOTTEN FILM: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (2012) »
FORGOTTEN BOOK: DOC SAVAGE: SKULL ISLAND by Will Murray, 2013
This is the 135th in my series of Forgotten Books.
OK, this is not really a forgotten book. It’s a new book and several of my friends have reviewed this book recently so many of you may have read their takes already. If so, bear with me. But then again I think I reach a different audience so maybe you have not read the reviews yet.
hen I first heard the title and saw the cover, I was in Book Lust. Doc Savage meets King Kong. I fell in love with the 8th Wonder of the World when I was a pre-teen and I saw the world’s greatest motion picture on a fizzy black and white TV. I have seen it many times since then. The film is better than Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon even though they are great films. It had everything – romance, action, adventure, dinosaurs, and the boat leaves at dawn.
The love of Doc Savage and then The Shadow came a few years later. I loved Doc and his crew until I met the Shadow. I still love them both and read their adventures when I need a break. I have copies of all the Doc Savages from the pulps and most since then. The Shadow novels I have are all from the pulps as well as some of Denis Lynds’ Shadow spy novels from Belmont in the 1960’s. This is my wheelhouse here.
So when a copy of Doc Savage: Skull Island found its way into my hands I knew that nothing else would be read while I inhaled its essence. So let’s get to it. Continue reading FORGOTTEN BOOK: DOC SAVAGE: SKULL ISLAND by Will Murray 2013 »
FORGOTTEN BOOK: HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL by Robert A. Heinlein, 1958
This is the 134th in my series of Forgotten Books.
Last time, I commented on a Conan novel I read more than 40 years earlier. As I was looking for a book to do for this week, I came across a British paperback of an early Heinlein novel that I read at about the same time. It was probably about 1972 when I read it and it might as well have been a hundred years earlier for all I remembered. The old brain is sharp in some ways as my trivia team can vouch for, but other things, well, not so much. There have been thousands of books in the interim and sometimes I have trouble remembering what I read last week.
But I thought “It has been a while so why not?” which made me smile as I remembered the joke from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress when our hero meets his girl whose name is Wyoming Knott. But she said to call her “Wy. Or, Wy Knott.”
This is one of the so called “juveniles” of Heinlein, though it could only be called that since the main characters are children.
Clifford “Kip“ Russell is a very bright kid in a small town. His school is a joke, more a socializing spot than a learning institution. But his father will have none of it. He pushes Kip to learn and teach himself the things he needs to achieve his goals in life. His main goal is to go to the Moon. His father says “Fine” but Kip soon realizes that to do it he has to get into a good school and work hard. So, in addition to his extra schooling, he works at the local drug store/soda fountain.
One day a small soap company has a contest for a jingle. First prize is a trip to the Moon. The entry has to be accompanied by a soap wrapper. He acquires a couple of thousand wrappers and jingles. When the winning jingle is read, he is ecstatic, because it is one of his submissions. Unfortunately, several other people had the same jingle and based on the tiebreakers he is not the winner. He does, however, win a used space suit. He can sell it back to the company or keep it.
Continue reading FORGOTTEN BOOK: HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL by Robert A. Heinlein, 1958 »
Forgotten Films: Miranda (1948)
This is the 104th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
This week’s film is actually a relatively forgotten and obscure, or at least it was to me. Having hung around science fiction and fantasy books and films for more than 50 years I am occasionally surprised when I find a film I have never heard of, seen or even read about.
That is what happened this week. I was up early and cruising the channel guide when I saw TCM was going to show a film called Miranda. I checked the summary and found that it was a mermaid film starring Glynis Johns, an actress I first encountered when I saw Mary Poppins as a child and then fell in love with in The Court Jester. Leonard Maltin gave it 2 ½ stars so I began to watch it.
Glynis plays the titular character Miranda, a mermaid living in the sea off of Cornwall. Young Dr. Paul Martin went off on a fishing vacation sans his wife Clare (Googie Withers) who had no interest in fishing. Martin finds himself a captive of the young mermaid who wants to keep him for her own. He soon strikes a deal, offering to take her on a tour of the land world in exchange for his freedom.
He soon has dresses made for her (an extra foot longer to cover the tail), and invented a flimsy story to account for returning from the trip with a beautiful young woman. She is transported around in a wheelchair and sleeps in the bathtub. But she is playful and manipulative. Soon she has the chauffeur Charles (David Tomlinson) and the neighbor’s fiancé Nigel (John McCallum) as well as Paul in an alpha male struggle for her affection. The only one aware of Miranda’s nature is crotchety old Nurse Carey (Margaret Rutherford).
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Forgotten Films: Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)
This is the 103rd in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
Last time, I discussed a documentary/archive of Winsor McCay films and his legendary comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. As I was typing up those thoughts, I pulled out my VHS copy of this animated classic and decided that I would watch it this week in conjunction with the previous article. I had fond memories of the film and I hoped it would hold up.
It does hold up quite well. Surprisingly well. There were quite a few times when I noted shots that came directly from the comic strip and though there were changes made to the characters and story line, I was pleased with the overall product.
The story follows the basics of the comic strip. Nemo (voiced by Gabriel Damon), a young boy, has wild dreams that take him to Slumberland where anything a surrealist might imagine can come to pass. He meets Morpheus the King of Slumberland and the King’s daughter, Princess Camille. He meets the mischievous Flip (voiced by Mickey Rooney) and trouble ensues.
The changes include the addition of a cute flying squirrel (complete with aviation goggles) named Icarus and the exclusion of the racially offensive Impie from the strip. There are, of course, some parallels between Nemo’s real world and Slumberland. All the major Slumberland characters are seen in a circus parade at the beginning of the film. That evening Nemo finds himself summoned to Slumberland where King Morpheus (voiced by Bernard Erhard) has decided to make Nemo his prince and heir and also to become a potential playmate for his daughter Princess Camille (voiced by Laura Mooney). He is to be trained in his duties by Professor Genius (voiced by Rene Auberjonois) and a myriad of instructors covering dance, reading fencing, riding and more.
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FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON by Robert E. Howard, 1936, 1977
This is the 133rd in my series of Forgotten Books.
I was out hitting the used bookstores a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled across a book club hardcover edition of Robert E. Howard’s first novel The Hour of the Dragon (AKA Conan the Conqueror). Oddly enough a few days later I found a beautiful unjacketed Gnome Press edition of King Conan at another store. It seemed like fate was telling me to re-read some Conan.
I have been a big fan of Conan since the Lancer reprints began in the mid 1960’s. I read them all and enjoyed them immensely. I found other Howard collections like King Kull, Wolfshead, The Dark Man and Almuric at about the same time. REH became one of my favorite writers. I discovered Lovecraft and Moorcock at about the same time. Tolkien would be a year or so later. I was in fantasy heaven.
And as much Howard as I read over the years, it had been some time since I revisited the world of Conan. I read a few short stories on my Kindle and went to Howard Days in Cross Plains. Heck, I even co-edited an anthology of stories based on the life and works of REH in 2006. So it seemed time.
This is the penultimate Conan story, followed shortly thereafter by Red Nails, another favorite. So the other night, I took up a reading position and delved into the world of sorcery and barbarians, honor and betrayal, kings and slave for the first time in many years.
The story has it all. Conan, King of Aquilonia, is betrayed and attacked in his camp and nearly killed by a demon. His troops need a leader and one of his liegemen wears Conan’s armor into a battle where the sorcerer Xaltotun, raised from his 3,000 year death by the unholy Heart of Ahriman, drops a mountain side on the supposed King and his troops. His kingdom is stolen from him and everyone knows you don’t steal from Conan.
During the fight to reclaim his throne, Conan relives many aspects of his life – freelancer, member of the Free Companions, corsair, wanderer, and blood spilling fighting machine. The story is visceral and fast moving. Howard never wasted words as so many penny-a-word pulpsters did to increase their paycheck. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith may have been the Scott Fitzgerald’s of Weird Tales, but Howard was the Hemingway.
As I read it, though, there was some regret. I was no longer 14 or 15. The words did not resonate quite as well as they did 45 years ago. I still enjoyed the story but it was not the same as when I first found it. Time passes, people change.
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Forgotten Films: Winsor McCay: The Master Edition (1911 – 1921), 2002
This is the 102nd in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films.
Before I get into this week’s film, I need to give a shout out to my friend Sam Hudson from Ft. Worth. Sam is a big fan of animation, in long or short form. He is also a fan of the works of the National Film Board of Canada and has shown me some very interesting odd films over the years. I try to repay those with other odds and ends whenever I can. This year I sent him Season 1 of Murdoch Mysteries, a wonderful Canadian series of mysteries set in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century, where forensic sciences and police work were first being combined. The series is very good and well worth your time. But since this column is devoted to works of science fiction, fantasy and horror, we will not be discussing it here this week.
Some time ago Sam sent me this wonderful DVD. It features all extant animated pieces from one of the greatest comic and animation giants, Winsor McCay. McCay claimed to be the first to make animated pictures, though the references in Wikipedia list two animators – James Stuart Blackton and Emile Cohl – as preceding him. McCay was already well known in 1911 when he began his animation career. He had two extremely popular comic strips running Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland ran in rival newspapers. Rarebit was signed as by Silas but it was readily apparent that McCay was the artist. Of the two strips, Nemo is the more remembered today. My first encounter with McCay was the Dover Books edition of some Rarebit strips. I then saw the Gertie the Dinosaur short film and then finally found the Little Nemo strips.
McCay was the most amazing illustrator and animator the world had seen until the advent of the Disney and Fleischer studios. His work is more of the line art variety though he did do some variations. According to records, McCay made ten shorts between 1911 and 1921 of which seven have survived as well as one fragment. All these surviving pieces are included on this DVD.
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