Oh, H. G …

No, if human beings were cleverer. It would be a good thing to invent a Five-Year Plan for the reconstruction of the human brain, which obviously lacks many things needed for a perfect social order.[Laughter]

 

That would be one H. G. Wells chatting with one Joe the Georgian (to reference an Al Stewart song) in 1934. You can see the whole interview here.

Nothing really shocking here.  Wells was a Fabian socialism so you’d expect him to argue with the Man of Steel about the merits of violent revolution. And Wells the political thinker was not unknown to me. I’ve talked a bit about the politics of Wells in his fiction, particularly in his When the Sleeper Awakes and, much more in his A Modern Utopia. The latter is, as far as utopias go, better than most in holding your interest. However, William Morris, definitely not a Fabian socialist, wrote a more interesting utopia with News from Nowhere.  He was with Uncle Joe on the need for violent revolution.

I think of Wells’ as being a sort of Dr. Moreau. He couldn’t ultimately tame the beasts of his island through laws and surgery. Wells never figured out how to reconstruct human brains to create his utopias either.

Stalin and Wells make reference to the organizing talents of Henry Ford. The matter of Soviet imitation of centralized capitalist systems is briefly covered in Michael Flynn’s Babbage Engine secret history, In the Country of the Blind.

We Soviet people have not a little experience of the technical intelligentsia. After the October Revolution, a certain section of the technical intelligentsia refused to take part in the work of constructing the new society; they opposed this work of construction and sabotaged it.

That’s the most jolting bit in the interview. As Greta Garbo said in Ninotchka, “Fewer but better Russians.”

Of course, the bright world glimpsed in 1934 never really panned out.  There or anytime since then.

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The Gestapo

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I’m not much interested in World War Two.

Or, to be precise, I’m not really all that interested in reading about World War Two.

Now part of that is, in grade school, I read all 33 volumes of Colonel Dewey’s “Young People’s History of World War II”. At least that’s what my memory says it was called. I’ve never been able to actually find any reference to such a series. [Update: I discovered, in a bookstore last week, that this series was not by Colonel Dewey but Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy. It was the 18 volume Military History of World War II and not intended for just juvenile readers. What does it say about my memory that 18 books became 33?]

In high school, I read some of Time-Life’s series on World War Two.

As an adult, though, I can’t remember any books I’ve read solely on World War Two. The books I’ve read that touch on the subject deal mostly with espionage: John Keegan’s Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaedavarious biographies of Kim Philby, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew.

Part of my disinterest in reading about the subject is that American culture has a lot of information about the war that can be absorbed casually via tv documentaries, magazines, and even movies.

Part of my disinterest is that I simply don’t come from a family with a large military tradition. Continue reading

Blackwater Lights

d96cc07cabda0c659694e7a6841434d414f4141A surprisingly enjoyable novel. While I expected a Lovecraftian story, it is Lovecraftian only in theme and not in any explicit allusions.

I got it for review from the publisher about six months ago. Perhaps inconvenient for Mr. Hughes, but I don’t get paid for these reviews, so, if you don’t give a hard deadline, a title is reviewed when I get around to it.

And I’m not going to be tyrannized by the new or be one of those reviewers who laments they never get to go back and read anything new. Besides, in the age of the long tail, I suspect a book can survive better without the immediate oxygen of a review upon release — providing, of course, it gets reviewed and noticed sometime.

Review of Blackwater Lights by Michael M. Hughes, 2013.

Blackwater, West Virginia’s strange orange lights in the sky aren’t the only forteana phenomena in Hughes’ first novel. There will be a lot more as well as some Lovecraftish bits.

And Hughes’ is not the first author to start a story with the device of a man getting a pleading call from a childhood friend to visit him in some rural backwater. But, from the moment Ray Simon arrives in town from Baltimore, things are weird. His friend Kevin, an internet porn millionaire, isn’t home. A naked girl shows up pleading for sex before being taken away by a creepy sheriff. And then Ray sees the Blackwater Lights. Continue reading

War Dolphins

When I read this story about dolphins and the Russian military, I, of course, thought of Alexander Jablokov’s A Deeper Sea. Jablokov’s war dolphins are obnoxious, petty, and irritating.

But his take on the cetaceans is decidedly a reaction to their usual cute portrayal in science fiction. 1970’s’ science fiction loved the critters, but it wasn’t the only offending decade.

Ms. Goldstein has a far from exhaustive list of dolphin science fiction ranked from good to bad. It doesn’t even mention any of David Brin’s Uplift books which, I understand, have talking dolphins in them.  (She puts Jablokov’s novel towards the bad end.)

I do, however, have a fond spot for Roger Zelazny’s My Name Is Legion which has a bit with talking dolphins. These days, though, the book is more interesting as a precursor to the tv show Person of Interest.

 

Innsmouth Free Press

Two reasons for this post.

First is to list my work for Innsmouth Free Press. It’s not all reviews of Cthulhu Mythos related material or even all fiction.

Second, apart from sheer egomania and to create a reference list of my work there, to get you to check out the great material already available there now and in the future. And by great material, I’m talking about everybody there.

I’ve  already ordered my copy of their forthcoming anthology Sword and Mythos.

And I will definitely be ordering The Nickronomicon, a collection of Mythos stories from Nick Mamatas. He already has given us “That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” from the Ellen Datlow anthology Lovecraft Unbound, “Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Nyarlathotep” from Innsmouth Free Press’ own Future Lovecraft, and “Wuji” from Robin D. Laws’ anthology Shotguns v. Cthulhu. He’s a mad scientist, a literary gene splicer whose hybrids are far more vigorous than they should be.

And you can still get issues of Innsmouth Magazine there.

Review of Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction, eds. Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach.

Review of “The Hospital” and Safari (Mountain Man 2), Keith C. Blackmore.

Review of Black Wings II: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror, ed. S. T. Joshi.

Review of Twisted in Dream: The Collected Weird Poetry of Ann K. Schwader.

Article on CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

Review of Armored, ed. John Joseph Adams.

Review of Letters to James F. Morton, H. P. Lovecraft and edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi.

Review of Mountain Man, Keith C. Blackmore.

Review of Whispers in Darkness: Lovecraftian Erotica, ed. J. Blackmore.

Review of King Death, Paul Finch.

Review of The Eye of Infinity, David Conyers.

Review of Technicolor Ultra Mall, Ryan Oakley.

Review of The Wolverton Bible, ed. Monte Wolverton.

Review of Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo, Miyuke Miyabe.

Review of Shotguns v. Cthulhu: Double-Barrelled Action in the Horrific World of H.P. Lovecraft, ed. Robin D. Laws.

Review of The Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones, Aaron B. Larson.

Review of Hellifax (Mountain Man 3), Keith C. Blackmore.

Review of Cthulhu Cymraeg: Lovecraftian Tales From Wales, ed. Mark Howard Jones.

Review of Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, ed. Stephen Jones.

 

 

 

Transcendental

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Working my way through the works of James Gunn, skilled author, historian, and critic of science fiction, is one of those reading projects I may actually get done before I die. I’ve found his critical writings, especially his Road to Science Fiction series, a great guide to the genre. As a novel writer, he has produced some outstanding books too.

I bought this one when it came out, but, reading Donald M. Hassler’s informative look at it, “The Little Big Book from James Gunn: Real SF and a Huge Body of Work” in The New York Review of Science Fiction, issue #305, inspired me to read it now.

(By the way, it’s been years since I’ve looked at a copy of that magazine. I liked what I saw, but it always seemed too pricey for a subscription and too inconvenient to order single copies. Since you can now buy single digital issues quite conveniently through Weightless Books, it’s worth frequently checking out what they’re offering.)

Hassler notes that one of Gunn’s professional rules as a fiction writer is to never write something that can’t be sold twice. In this case, some of the alien pilgrims’ tales have already been printed in the Frederik Pohl tribute anthology Gateways.

Review: Transcendental by James Gunn, 2013.

After the Galactic War, pack a bunch of aliens into a dilapidated starship, all on a pilgrimage for a rumored Transcendental Machine. Add a human hero blackmailed with a lethal brain implant to go on that pilgrimage to destroy the machine and its Prophet. Throw in some shipboard assassinations, and you have the setting for Gunn’s latest novel. Continue reading