Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Vampire Short Story Set in France - Pepopukin in Corsica

Arthur Young (1741-1820)

What was the first vampire short story set in France? In the English language it appears to be "Pepopukin in Corsica," published in 1826. It was in a British rag called The Stanley Tales. The author was only attributed to A.Y. and in The Best Vampire Stories anthology I edited, I give reasons why I think the author was Arthur Young who was an English writer that travelled extensively in France. He died in 1820, so it had to be published posthumously.

"Pepopukin in Corsica," was published for the first time in 175 years in BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Short Stories 1800-1849. It tells of malevolent vampires having claws and crushing bones. There is a nice review of the vampire tale over at the Taliesiin Vampire Blog.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why the Captain America Movie Harkens Back to a Science Fiction Story from 1845

The new movie Captain America: The Winter Solider is out, but it is the first installment from 2011, Captain America: First Avenger that shows him waking up after being frozen in Arctic ice for 70 years. How does this possibly relate to a short story from 1845?

The first cryptopreservation sci-fi story is "Hilda Silfverling"by Lydia Maria Child, republished for the first time in over 100 years in Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849. In the groundbreaking tale, a chemist has found a way to "suspend animation in living creatures and restore it at any time" after they have been frozen.

Sometimes what's new in science fiction movies is old again!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review of The Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

"The Secret Sharer," which is one of the two short novels in this bi-novel package, taps into that classic theme of a person hiding in a room who does not want to be found. It was first published by Joseph Conrad in 1910. The writing is topnotch, though the means of building suspense by having someone in a room who does not want to be found out handled (much better) by Honore de Balzac in his short story "The Mysterious Mansion" published in 1830 that can be found in my Best Horror Short Stories anthology. Because of this I suggest reading Balzac's classic instead of Conrad's seafaring regurgitation.

On to Conrad's crowning achievement: The Heart of Darkness. The hunt into the heart of a depraved jungle for Mr. Kurtz is one that had few equals up to its publication in 1902. It drew on Conrad's own experience in the Congo and what he saw there. His style of writing is uncomfortable and heated, mimicking the way a person feels on a sultry day. That much is genius and so is one of the first quests in literature for a crazzzzzy person. Francis Ford Coppola got it right in Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now Redux:

I need to study this novel, but unfortunately have little time for it at the moment. Sigh. Perhaps when my writing schedule slows down, but there is no end in sight like the darkling jungles as Charles Marlow and his band of sailors troll up the Congo in search the their greatest fears.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Comment on "The Black Vampyre" Worth Checking Out

There is a fine commentary on "The Black Vampyre" short story over at the Taliesin scary vampire blog: that I included in The Best Vampire Stories anthology.

I liked it so much I left a comment. Check it out.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cover Reveal for The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory - Book II of the Infernal Trilogy

The northern hemisphere is pretty sick of winter right about now, so I thought I would warm things up by revealing the cover for The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory, book II of the Infernal trilogy. Queue the Purgatorial music!

Watch for more exciting news about DDII next week. Meanwhile, keep your feet propped on the fireplace grate and get caught up by reading the first book in the Infernal trilogy that follows Eddie and Virg on their quest to find Beatrice in Europe. The Divine Dantes: Squirt Guns in Hades.

[A] lively and good natured work . . .. Publisher's  Weekly

Buy Divine Dantes book I at Amazon

Buy Divine Dantes book I at Barnes & Noble

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review of The Resurrectionist

Rarely do I buy a book because of its cover, but I have to say that this Goth cover suckered me in and parted me from $15 of my hard earned money. I want the marketing department of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Works of Spencer Black to know that I forgive them.

If you are seeking out bone structure illustrations of mythical creatures (And who among us is not?), this is the book for you. Open wallet, extract $15 and enjoy. On the other hand, if you want a good Gothic story about a mad resurrector who finds mythical creatures and reanimates them--which is what this book should have been about to match the illustration--you are out of luck (and $15 bucks). This is two books sandwiched into one. The first part is a drawn out short story with poor character generation and stilted dialogue. The back half contains the fore-mentioned illustrations.

I give The Resurrectionist two stars as a result.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review of Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849

A great 4 star review of Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849 was recently posted on Amazon. Check it out.

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This review is from: Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849 (Paperback)
The editor of this anthology honors the authors in this collection with his research, wonderful annotations illuminating arcane vocabulary and references, and most of all his respect and enthusiasm for the works themselves. I like to think of science fiction as the most important genre of literature because, by examining the future or other dimensions, it opens a window to the anxieties of the present. I especially love dated sci-fi not only for its quaint imaginings of "modern" technology, but because here we can see how people long past expressed their fear and awe of a future that is in our distant past.

Barger's archaeology of science fiction traces these tales to the origins of science fiction itself. Here, we have uncovered the first imaginings of suspended animation, robot insects, laser guns, flights to the moon via hot air balloon. Alas, the historical significance of some of these tales surpasses their redemptive value as works of art. I found A Visit To the Lunar Sphere and Glimpses of Other Worlds ponderous, full of superfluous detail and bogged down by stuffy, professorial narration mingled with scant character development. Very stoic without any sense of fun. A common flaw of some of these stories is that the narrative focus takes the reader away from the action, presenting the imagined world from the distant vantage point of being on the outside looking in, without really engaging with it.

My favorite pieces ended up being stories with more traditional elements of literature: characters, substantive theme, a plot, and conflict, in other words--a story to tell. Perceival Leigh's The Aerial Burglar presented a dystopian fantasy world in the clouds that was like Bladerunner combined with the Jetsons.

Lydia Maria Child's Hilda Silfverling, A Fantasy was the crown jewel of this collection, combining chemistry (alchemy, really)suspended animation, crime and punishment with fairytale to create what must be the most charming story about incest ever written. Child's other story included here was also wonderful. The Rival Mechanicians provides a nuanced, artfully wrought depiction of binary contrasts in human nature, artifice versus nature, delicacy versus durability, and aesthetics versus utilitarian value. Child asks the question, much as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, can we overcome the vicissitudes of nature with the ingenuity of humankind.

At times, Child's philosophizing borders on the grace and eloquence of the Greeks: "In grand conceptions, and in works of durability, you would always have excelled Florien, as much as he surpassed you in tastefulness and elegance. By striving to be what he was, you parted with your own gifts, without attaining to his. Every man in the natural sphere of his own talent, and all in harmony; this is the true order, my son; and I tempted you to violate it p.166."

The other story that transported me was Nathaniel Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter, a tale that delves into the subject of chemical transmutation of the human form, alienation, amoral experimentation, with a Romeo and Juliet-like twist. I would recommend this collection on the strength of these four visionary tales alone, though the other six certainly contain points to recommend them as well.

While the depictions of "modern" technology were indeed quaint and silly at times in these stories, I was most struck by the ethereal, dream-like narratives, the elements of fable, fairytale, and magical realism found sprinkled like pixie dust liberally throughout these works. For the sake of identifying the origins of a genre, Barger's logic in placing them in this science fiction collection makes sense. However, many of these stories belong equally to the world of fantasy. If these tales are any indication, it seems that the early Victorians were most concerned with the ability of technology to change nature, and to replace morality with utility. The stories dealing with trans-human metamorphosis and the construction of artificial beings remind us that when we transcend the limits of human nature, we irrevocably alter it, and sometimes not for the best. Ultimately, these stories seem to impart the message that life and love are fleeting, and when we tinker with the "mechanics" of either, we are destined to lose both.