Fascism

Impulse reading is not something I usually do. My reading is usually planned out books in advance and dependent on what I need to review and books which have an associated interest for me. Little attention is paid to the release date of a work.

This book is an exception – though I’ve long meant to do more reading on fascism. Paul Gottfried is a political scientist whose writing I’ve liked when coming across it. Austere, clear, pointed, and willing to question assumptions others often didn’t know they were making, he can be found these days, after being kicked out of the National Review club, at Unz.com, a site full of writers of various political persuasions willing to question common wisdom.

So, after reading his criticism of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, a book I favorably reviewed (a review which seems to have vanished from Amazon and I have no copy) I wanted to read his take on the subject.

If you have to choose between the two books, go with Gottfried.

Review: Fascism: The Career of a Concept, Paul Gottfried, 2016.Fascism

The current career of the word “fascism” is to stand in

for a host of iniquities that progressives, multiculturalists, and libertarians all oppose, even if they offer no single, coherent account of what they’re condemning.

Gottfried wants to correct that and, in a greater sense, remind us that the terms Right and Left have “essentialist” meanings.

The literature on fascism is vast, and Gottfried mentions a lot of scholars on the subject. (My Kindle edition tells me that 58% of the book is notes and an index.) The predominant ones he uses are German Ernst Nolte and American A. James Gregor. They represent two views, respectively, that fascism was “a counterrevolutionary imitation of the revolutionary Left” and a “variant on Marxism” that used nationalism.

Nazis as Marxists? Continue reading

The High Hunt

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed by this book the first time I read it about three months ago. However, since I’m months behind in doing new reviews, I skimmed through it again before writing this. It holds up better the second time around.

This review copy came straight from the author.

Review: The High Hunt: The Orion Guild, Book One, Adam Connell, 2013.High Hunt

Bagging a Yeti in the Himalayas is just one of the things that has made Lansing a legend in the Orion Guild. He’s a true hunter with all the necessary skills: tracking, stalking, and a crack shot. He respects his kills. And he won’t hunt men.  He’s the symbol of the Guild.

But not everyone likes the Guild and its fussy, stodgy ways: no post-1953 firearms are used in their hunts nor much other modern technology. And they forbid their members to hunt men.

That’s why the upstart hunting organization RifleHire has targeted the Guild, and Lansing in particular, for destruction.

Lansing takes charge of the Orion Guild’s contract to purge a herd of brindles, animals highly prized for their aphrodisiac meat and that can only be raised on Wildernesse. That happens to be the home planet of Lansing before he was forced into exile after his parents were wrongly accused of trying to undercut the government’s brindle meat monopoly.

But that’s not the only reunion taking place. One-armed Bledsoe is waiting there to hunt brindle too and disgrace Lansing after the latter forced him out of the Guild for illegally hunting men. He’s a sadist, a proud man of many impoverishing vices, and really only skilled at shooting – preferably slow death shots rather than Lansing’s quick kills. In tow is Cass, a weird dog-woman chimera there to do the hunting and stalking and mundane camp duties for Bledsoe. Continue reading

A Wretched and Precarious Situation

Normally, I like to read tales of polar exploration when the thermometer drops below 0 Fahrenheit. However, Amazon has its own schedule.

Review: A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier, David Welky, 2016.Wretched and Precarious Situation

The history of polar exploration is full of disappointment and failure. However, there aren’t a lot of tales of polar exploration that descend into not only outright dissension but murder too. And none of those are documented so personally by the principals involved from not only their published writings but personal journals and diaries.

In 1913, the Crocker Island Expedition set off to explore an island, neigh a continent, sighted by Captain Robert Peary in 1908 on his penultimate expedition to attain the North Pole.

Weather, logistical problems caused by World War One, and public indifference stretched the expedition out to four years. The brutal polar clime, the long nights and social isolation, the deprivations of sledding and short provisions, changed the men. Some discovered inner reserves and talents, some realized the importance of loved ones they left, and some psychologically disintegrated.

Welky pulls the reader through the story in a high state of suspense partly because of its obscurity and the parallax view of all those personal and largely unpublished writings. The frontpiece is of a map – but only of the Arctic as theorized in 1912. Further the suspense, Welky narrates his story chronologically. Characters drop out of the story unexpectedly and a nice coda is provided for the principals’ post-expedition lives. Continue reading

The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok

I end the weird western series with a retro review from September 2, 2013.

Review: The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok, Richard Matheson, 1996.Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok

While Matheson is mostly known as a fantasy and horror writer, this is not really a weird western though, arguably, a small element of the fantastic is present in Hickok’s brushes with Spiritualism.

Matheson’s introduction says he did not intend to write this book to demean Hickok, but there is, especially for those who have read Joseph G. Rosa’s biographies of him, a certain perverseness in the story despite Matheson largely following the historical chronology of Hickok’s life. In his surviving letters, Hickok appears somewhat illiterate. Here it’s all an act as Hickok tells us in this account of his life written a few days before Jack McCall guns him down in August 1876. While associate Doc Carver noted Hickok’s lack of prowess shooting a rifle, it’s the weapon here Hickok most likes, and the novel’s Hickok certainly does not start out with an innate talent for shooting revolvers.

The perversity continues with accounts of the “real” story of Hickok’s gun battles at the Rock Creek stagecoach station and his duel with Dave Tutt and the circumstances behind his dismissal as city marshal in Abilene. Still, despite the violence done to the historical record, there were a couple of highlights that may appeal to those devoted to Rosa’s account of Hickok. One is the humorous tale behind how he came to be dressed in the buffalo coat and fur cap captured in a famous photo. The other is Hickok’s encounter with Matheson’s creation Clay Halser, featured in Matheson’s Journal of the Gun Years, another man, like Hickok, trapped by the expectations of his legend. Continue reading

It Came From The Drive-In

Another spin off of my weird western series.

Raw Feed (1997): It Came from The Drive-In, eds. Norman Partridge and Martin H. Greenberg, 1996.It Came from the Drive-In

“Introduction”, Norman Partridge — Introduction written around the conceit that the reader is entering a drive-in.

Talkin’ Trailer Trash”, Edward Bryant — A rather pointless story seemingly about America’s changed race relations since the ‘50s with giant chiggers standing in for blacks. I suppose Roger Corman’s occasional use of such metaphors explains the dedication to him.

10585”, Sean A. Moore — Enjoyable story – basically a modern updating of the movie The Blob crossed with zombie movies. I particularly liked the can-do veteran Ted Mack.

Big Bust at Herbert Hoover High”, Jay R. Bonansinga — Enjoyable and absurd story of an adolescent fixated on female breasts and their lingerie accompaniments. Thanks to one of those convenient nuclear accidents at his father’s work, the lad finds himself fused and joined to his girlfriend’s left breast – a fate he comes to gratefully accept. I liked the image of the girl’s left breast supplanting the boy’s head a lá the movie The Fly. I also liked the voice of actor Russ Tamblyn epitomizing cool.

’59 Frankenstein”, Norman Partridge — An amusing modern version of the Frankenstein in which the boy monster, tired of yet another condescending speech by the doctor after the boy asks for the car keys, throws his creator to the alligator in the basement. After striking out in his creation – a car cobbled together from other cars, the monster encounters the previous owner of one of his arms. The man graciously helps the monster after a car accident and then returns to imprison Dr. Frankenstein who has been mangled after the attacks of the monster and alligator and get another arm. Humorous and gruesome with genuine suspense and not just camp or absurd humor. Continue reading

Guardian

I’m ending the weird western series with some borderline cases.
Raw Feed (2004): Guardian, Joe Haldeman, 2002.Guardian
In some ways this is a slight novel; in some ways it’s a typical Joe Haldeman novel; in some ways it’s a disappointing novel.
Haldeman has almost written a weird western here. He gives us a novel mostly set in the 1890s about a woman and her son fleeing the husband who has horribly abused them both. At crucial moments, they meet a talking raven who offers them good advice or ominous warnings. She flees from Philadelphia to Alaska. Her son meets a sudden, violent end when he is murdered in the Klondike gold rush. At the moment of hearing the news and about to commit suicide, the raven is revealed to be a shapeshifting alien who also wears the guise of a Indian shaman who has been teaching her Tlingit in Sitka, Alaska. The raven takes her on a shapeshifting tour of alternate universes and time itself. He is a guardian of life and is worried that not only will the narrator kill herself but that humanity, like many intelligent species, will kill itself.
Ultimately, he moves her to another dimension where her son lives. More importantly, the man killed with her son, who she has promised to marry, does not die, and the two have a son who works on the Manhattan Project and figures out a way of building a third atomic bomb which is demonstrated for the Japanese in Tokyo Bay. In some unexplained way, that saves humanity from annihilation in the 1990s.

Continue reading

Two Tiny Claws

The road jam continues in producing new stuff, so you’re getting more weird western stuff.

Raw Feed (2007): Two Tiny Claws, Brett Davis, 1999.Two Tiny Claws

Despite the annoying historical error of having something called the Wild Bill Hickok show in 1907 (he never had a Wild West Show and he was already dead by the events — October 1876 — of the prequel Bone Wars), this was much more enjoyable, involving, and coherent than Bone Wars.

The latter novel suffered from never really explaining the motives of the alien “Swedes” and Icelanders (here called the Nes, reptilian aliens) and trying to get too much humor out of the feud between real life paleontologists Marsh and Cope. This novel explains the alien feud, with Nes spies in disguise amongst the Swedes, the motives for the Swedes looking for dinosaur bones (cleaning up evidence of alien genetic experiments on a past Earth), and manages to evoke more emotion than the most emotional event, Sitting Lizards’s death, of the first novel.

Here Sitting Lizard’s son is a paleontologist and his mother Alice Stilson shows up (she’s also written a tabloid account of the first novel’s events and fittingly called it Bone Wars). However, the novel’s emotion is supplied effectively by three characters. The grief of the historical paleontologist Barnum Brown over his dead wife overpowers the Swede leader Kan when he reads his Brown’s mind. (The Swedes, creatures of incorporeal form normally, are overpowered by the passions of us apes.) Earth Reclamation Unit 17, cloned from Digger Phelps (who shows up here again) in the first novel and modified cybernetically, latches on to his model and thirstily devours all the memories the dying Phelps can give him. He ends up marooned on Earth at novel’s end along with the Nes spy Lasse who convincingly becomes a convert to Christianity because of the guilt he feels at killing his fellow agent to avoid detection. There’s a fair amount of action, mostly supplied by gunfighter Luther Gumpson under mind control.

And, as with the first novel, dinosaur simulacra roam about, here a tyrannosaurus rex.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

Bone Wars

The weird western series continues, this time with a science fictional weird western.

Raw Feed (2007): Bone Wars, Brett Davis, 1998.Bone Wars

A sometimes plodding story of the real-life paleontologists Othniel Marsh and Edward Cope competing for bones in Montana in 1876. They come across two competing aliens who, for reasons not entirely clear (a war fought between aliens?, genetic experiments?, splicing genetic material into Earth’s organisms?, racial pride?) who want the bones. They decide to foil their efforts. Another real paleontologist, Charles Sternberg, is a character as is Sitting Bull.

There is a little, and not often successful, attempt at wry humor and a bit of genuine tragedy when the lover of Al Stilson aka Alice Stilson, Sitting Lizard aka George Burgess, is shot and killed. Still, not really very interesting as a weird western, a story of alien intrigue and technology, or fossil hunting

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor?

Devil’s Engine

The weird western series continuous with a look at the sequel to Devil’s Tower.

Raw Feed (1997): Devil’s Engine, Mark Sumner, 1997.Devil's Engine

I didn’t like this novel as well as Devil’s Tower.
For one thing, the ending is a little too coy, but I gather Dr. Stone is Malcolm mysteriously healed by the time-hopping Boots who,  it seems, will marry Muley Owens. It also seems as the Rainmaker (with the interesting curse/talent of a thunderstorm that follows him about) dies.
The story was suspenseful enough, and I like the comparison between William Cody and his dime-novel persona, Buffalo Bill Cody. Still, there is little to this story beyond some fights and chases. The sailing stagecoach of Owens and the Rainmaker – son of the famous arms-manufacturing Spencer family – was a nifty, if improbable image, and the chase of the train was good.
The coming of the transcontinental railroad that sucks up the magical energy of the talented and pools it for lethal work is not much more than a device to justify the plot. What it will mean for the West of this novel is not really explored. Sumner mentions economic prosperity. Possibly, but what about the balance of political power? Will the concentration of magical energy produce – as is implied – concentrations of political power? Will the inhabitants of the West necessarily object to the subjugation of the talented? Cody does but is he typical? Part of the anarchy that reigns in the West seems to spring from “talents”.

Continue reading

Devil’s Tower

While I slowly creep towards actually writing something new, you get more weird westerns.

Raw Feed (1997): Devil’s Tower, Mark Sumner, 1996.Devil's Tower

This book is labeled as an alternate history though the hinge the alternate timeline swings on – that the bloody Civil War unleashed magical energy that could be harnessed by the talented – is not sufficiently rationalistic to justify the label. Still, given the conceit, Sumner provides a fairly well worked West and America.

The Civil War still drags on with neither side having the will or resources to really pursue victory. The West is becoming rapidly depopulated through a combination of factors. The Civil War has played havoc with the money supply since both US and Confederate money circulates. With the rise of “talents”, various magical abilities possessed by a few (Sumner creates magic via words – “chanting”, magic “signing”, shapeshifting, prophecy – “casting”, the ability to conjure up beings of various material), towns fall prey to the talented – whether they are bandits or extortionist sheriffs that offer protection.

Sumner keeps the plot moving with lots of set pieces – the demon possessed Custer (at least he’s possessed by something) wipes out a gathering of Indians at Greasy Grass aka the Little Big Horn, protagonist Jake Bird battles a re-animated fossil dinosaur, a challenge between a Sheriff and an Indian shaman using conventional weapons and magic, and the dispatching of a spirit called up by a dying Indian medicine man at Greasy Grass and then gone rogue. Of course, part of the fun of alternate histories is having historical personages show up in recast roles. The possessed Custer is the arch-villain and fittingly enough he draws power from the worship and adoration of others. In fact, he originally possesses no talent, but his lust for power leads him to strike a bad deal with a spirit around Devil’s Tower. (The camp and climax around Devil’s Tower are pretty creepy as the bodies pile up.). William Quantrill shows up as an appropriately ruthless villain. Morgan Earp makes an appearance as an extortionist gun man. Continue reading