More Ambrose Bierce

And so I return to America’s legendary curmudgeon.

Yes, I did find things to write about after polishing off the rest of the stories and autobiographical bits in S. T. Joshi’s volume Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs. Yes, details on Bierce pivot points (i.e. spoilers) follow.Bierce LOA

Who knew Bitter Bierce could write a story of lost love with a mega-happy ending? Continue reading

The Bierce Pivot

After polishing off the remaining stories and bits of memoirs in the S. T. edited volume Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs, I think I understand this Bierce fellow a bit better. Bierce LOA

With Bierce it’s usually about making the familiar unfamiliar, of alienating his characters from reality.

I realized this when reading his “Chickamauga”. It’s an oblique look at a battle he was at during the American Civil War, and he wrote his memoir of it in “A Little of Chickamauga”.

A six year old boy gets lost in the woods, sleeps until twilight, and wakes up to see something moving through the woods. Bears? Dogs?

They were men. They crept upon their hands and knees. They used their hands only, dragging their legs. They used their knees only, their arms hanging idle at their sides. … They did nothing naturally, and nothing alike, save only to advance foot by foot in the same direction. … Occasionally one who had paused did not again go on, but lay motionless. He was dead.

Sure, the old horror of war bit. But things get stranger. Continue reading

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: “Dagon”

“Dagon”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1923.

The publication date of this story is 1923, but it was actually written in the summer of 1917.

Its World War One content is pretty minimal and mostly is there to set up the story of a man, adrift in the Pacific, coming across the survival of a horrible alien race on a newly upraised island. He eventually makes his way back to San Francisco to become a morphine addict to forget what he has seen. At story’s end, he kills himself after seeing (or hallucinating, depending on your reading) that one of the horrible creatures he saw has followed him back to civilization.

The story is set in the early days of the war:

It was in one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacific that the packet of which I was supercargo fell a victim to the German sea-raider. The great war was then at its very beginning and the ocean forces of the Hun had not completely sunk to their later degradation; so that our vessel was made legitimate prize, whilst we of her crew were treated with all the fairness and consideration due us as naval prisoners.

I read this story out of Leslie S. Klinger’s The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft. One of his annotations implies the above places the story before either October 20, 1914’s sinking of the SS Glitra, a merchant vessel or February 4, 1915 when Kaiser Wilhelm permitted merchant vessels to be sunk by German U-boats in the area around England and Ireland. There are other possible dates for Germany sinking to its “later degradation”: February 18, 1915’s announcement by Germany that it would attack vessels of nations trading with Britain or May 7, 1915’s sinking of the Lusitania.

The German sea-raider Wolf operated in the Pacific as late as August 1917, so Lovecraft’s background history is plausible.

But the most interesting aspect of World War One’s treatment is that, like Edgar Rice Burroughs in Beyond ThirtyLovecraft portrays the war as weakening human civilization to the point where something else may kill it:

I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind — of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.

Writing in 1917, the creatures on Lovecraft’s island are not metaphors for the coming scourges of fascism or communism or the Spanish flu. Lovecraft’s creatures may be metaphors but not for those post-war horrors.

Of course, Burroughs’ horrors were unlikely but more plausible than Lovecraft’s, but both were responding to contemporary anxieties.

World War One Content

  • Living Memory: Yes.
  • On-Stage War: No.
  • Belligerent Area: Yes.
  • Home Front: Yes.
  • Veteran: No.

More World War One in Fantastic Fiction

The Abyss Beyond Dreams

Review: The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton, 2014.

In the first book of a new two-part series, Hamilton returns to the Void, that part of space beyond the human Commonwealth. There the Commonwealth’s advanced technology – and even most aliens’ – doesn’t work. The humans living in the Void do have powers of telekinesis and clairvoyance. They even have souls.Abyss Beyond Dreams

But the Void threatens to expand into the Commonwealth. The dreams of Eduard, hero of Hamilton’s Void Trilogy, have found their way outside the Void and formed the basis of a new cult. That worries some of the Commonwealth’s elite including compulsive detective Paula Myo, Hamilton’s most popular character, and physicist, tycoon, and all around power-broker Nigel Sheldon.

The novel tells three stories. Continue reading

More on World War One in Edgar Rice Burroughs

I’m not going to review them or put them on my checklist until I actually read them. But those interested in more Burroughs’ work featuring World War might want to check out Andrew Melomet’s article “Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs and the First World War” in the April 2006 issue of St. Mihiel Trip-Wire.

Manhattan in Reverse

Review: Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton, 2011.

The stories may be short, but Hamilton still manages to use most of the same ideas and types of plots that his bricks of novels do.

So, we get detectives and wormholes, immortals and genetic engineering (but no room for sex).Manhattan in Reverse

Three of the seven stories are set in Hamilton’s Commonwealth universe.

The title story is original to the collection and features Paula Myo, everybody’s favorite police investigator, dogged and utterly inflexible when it comes to punishing wrongdoers. Continue reading

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: Beyond Thirty

Beyond Thirty Beyond Thirty aka The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1916.

I’m not a Burroughs fan. I find him way too dependent on coincidence. And the plot is hardly surprising – Pan-American naval officer accidentally crosses the forbidden Longitude 30 W, meets a barbarian queen in Britain, instantly falls in love with her after rescuing her from some baddies, gets separated from her, and, after some whopping coincidences and a whirlwind tying up of plot threads, is reunited with her.

But it is also usually unappreciated how politically topical and even satirical Burroughs could be on occasion. Here, amidst the adventure, are wry bits of satire on what the consequences of the Great War could be for European civilization and white imperialism. And, just maybe, there’s also a swipe on the sanctimonious of the Wilson Administration on the brink of entering WWI. Burroughs’s fans, of course, will want to read this. And those interested in cultural responses to the war might want to take a quick look at this one too.

World War One Content

  • Living Memory: Yes.
  • On-Stage War: Yes — continuation of war into alternate future.
  • Belligerent Area: Yes — continuation of war into alternate future.
  • Home Front: No.
  • Veteran: No.

More World War One in Fantastic Fiction.

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: The Devil Genghis

Fortress of Solitude Devil Genghis

The Devil Genghis, by Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson, 1938.

The Devil Genghis is a novel in the long running Doc Savage pulp magazine series that ran from March 1933 to July 1947.

Doc Savage, aka Clark Savage, Jr., and his five aides, all of them with military rank going back to the Great War, go “from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who needed help, punishing those who deserved it” as stated in the very first installment of the series, The Man of Bronze.

While Doc’s “Fantastic Five” all fought in the Great War, direct references to the war are rare in the series. We hear about how the nicknames of Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett “Monk” Mayfair and Brigadier General Theodore Marley “Ham” Brooks go back to practical jokes they played on each other during the war. Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts got his nickname, at least in one version, after repelling an enemy attack by loading an old “Long Tom” cannon in a French village square with broken bottles and cutlery. Continue reading