“The Wand of Doom”

New stuff is being written, but it’s going to be awhile before it gets posted, so I’m going to continue the Jack Williamson with one more item.

Raw Feed (2013): The Wand of Doom”, Jack Williamson, 1932.Wand of Doom

I was kind of surprised when this story was proposed for the Deep Ones discussion group over at LibraryThing. I don’t, with the possible exception of Darker Than You Think, think of Williamson as a weird writer. But Williamson wrote a lot of stuff in the earlier part of his career, and this is an sf story with weird fiction imagery.

Essentially this is another “monster from the Id” story, though, of course, it predates Forbidden Planet. Or, more precisely, it’s a monster from the unconscious, here  a childhood, yet also atavistic, terror of spiders which a super science instrumentality manifests. this idea of mental terrors physically manifested is an old horror idea, just the rationalizing instrumentality varies.

Here a scientist finds a way to manifest his thoughts, freezing the energy (as matter is frozen energy) into physical forms but maintained by the fields put out by a dynamo and generator. He not only recreates a version of his lost love — she died before they could marry – but the somnabulent Paul accidentally brings his old nightmare spiders to life. Continue reading


There’s one more Neal Stephenson bit from the archives.

This story seems rather ho-hum now — because Stephenson’s vision has largely been realized as we blithely trade our privacy for Google’s baubles of convenience.

Raw Feed (1994): ”Spew”, Neal Stephenson, Wired, October 1994.Spew

Another cyberpunk story by Stephenson.

He has his William Gibson-style patter of technology and science-laden metaphors and similes, mostly original down, but his narrative and plot here don’t pay off.

This story, to re-work a Max Headroom phrase, is set “10 minutes in the future” in a world where our English major narrator-protagonist works as a “Profile Auditor”, someone who monitors the records of the “Spew” – Stephenson’s depiction of just how much of a data trail each of us leaves in our lives and what deductions someone can make from it.

Not only entertainment can be found (the “Virtual Mall” and the “Stalker Channel” – fed by surveillance cameras) but data on individuals. The narrator’s job is to use such personal data on buying and individual entertainment choices to find unexploited market niches. Continue reading

Snow Crash

Never let it be said that Marzaat is unresponsive to the interests and needs of its readers.

Sarah over at the Critiquing Chemist asked if I’ve ever read any Neal Stephenson.

Not much, but I have reviewed The Diamond Age, and one other novel.

So that’s why today’s post is …

Raw Feed (1992): Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, 1992.Snow Crash

An excellent book.

As Ed Bryant said in a review, cyberpunk with a sense of humor. Not only cyberpunk with it’s well worked out vision of the virtual reality of the Metaverse with its conventions, and combination of play and business and constant developing states, but also a fast moving, very funny thriller.

(Stephenson is very hazy how one actually moves your avatar in the Metaverse and how you control it. I didn’t even catch a hint of a device that reads brain waves.)

I’m not sure if the novel absolutely qualifies as cyberpunk.

It’s a grungy enough world, and there’s a large element of crime here but there are middle class people (Y.T’s mom), and so much of what we consider crime — like the Mafia — is here de facto legitimized.

In fact, the Mafia is heroic in this story — sort of. Hiro Protagonist doesn’t have any illusions about them. Still, there’s the political and physical and social decay that marks cyberpunk. It’s manifested in a United States of America that just about exists in name only. Hiro’s mom works for them, and it’s an inefficient, tyrannical, hellish, and boring place to work. Weird franchises spread like viruses. There are self-contained Burbclaves and pirate fleets. Continue reading

The Stonehenge Gate

Continuing to retrieve Jack Williamson material from the archives.

This one was his last novel.

Raw Feed (2005): The Stonehenge Gate, Jack Williamson, 2005.

This is the latest work from sf legend Jack Williamson, a man whose career spans 76 years. This serial started in the January/February issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, the magazine founded 75 years ago this year as Astounding Stories so Williamson’s whole career is longer than this venerable magazine. The whole careers of the Big Three (as they were once known — who knows whom younger sf readers would nominate for that position) of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke are bookended by Williamson’s works — and, of course, many another sf writer.

This story starts out promising — four college professors, including the narrator (an English professor at a New Mexico college –autobiographical for Williamson), who call themselves the Four Horseman decide, investigate some possible ruins in the Sahara. Continue reading

“The Ultimate Earth”

Digging out a few more Jack Williamson pieces.

Yes, eventually the Lovecraft series will continue as well as new stuff showing up.

Raw Feed (2001): “The Ultimate Earth”, Jack Williamson, 2000.Ultimate Earth

I believe that Williamson first published in 1928, and it’s good to see him still publishing good stories.

This story ricochets about the universe with a scope and pace of the old space opera Williamson wrote early in his career. Yet he also brings in the relatively new sf device of nanotechnology, here “nanobots”.

The plot is set in the far future with an Earth depopulated by cometary impacts and then repopulated by the efforts of a moon outpost – itself later wrecked by an impact. The members of that outpost are cloned.  (They seem to be partially made up of people who left earth right before the killing impacts.)

The clones, raised by a computer, are discovered by archaeologist Sandor Pen who treats them well as children but, as they grow older, he treats them more like scientific curiosities or museum exhibits than as real people. Museum exhibits are exactly what they are as Sandor Pen restores the moon station to its pre-impact state.

Nor does he allow the main base inhabitants to return to Earth. Continue reading

Darker Than You Think

A while back I did a Jack Williamson series and I found a few more related reviews in the archive, so I’m taking a brief detour from the H. P. Lovecraft series.

And I am working on some new material.

Raw Feed (2002): Darker Than You Think, Jack Williamson, 1940, 1948.Darker Than You Think

I originally read this novel because Fortean Miriam de Ford listed it as one of the sf works influenced by Charles Fort.  I see no evidence of that.

Fort is not mentioned or even obliquely alluded to.

I think, amongst other things, Williamson was clearly influenced by the work of Rhine on psychic powers, and the notion that these strange powers (which are mentioned in, partially, Fort’s Wild Talents) may be studied scientifically almost certainly comes from there.

If there is any Charles Fort influence, it may be by way of Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier.

Both novels were published in John Campbell’s Unknown magazine, Russell’s in 1939, Williamson in 1940.

Both novels feature a broad battle between humans and non-humans, Russell’s Vitons and Williamson’s witch-people, with the evidence of those battles showing up in human psychology and odd events. Continue reading

“Herbert West: Reanimator”

The Lovecraft series continues

Raw Feed (2005): “Herbert West: Reanimator”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1921-1922.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

Lovecraft claim to not much like this story regarding it as (which it sort of was) serial hackwork written for a humor magazine Home Brew and that debuted in its first issue.

At the beginning of each of the six sections, Loveccraft has to take some time out to summarize the story thus far, but T. E. D. Klein is right.  This story is fun and full of gory wit.

Lovecraft called it “mechanical and unimaginative” and “manifestly inartistic”. However, as Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi noted, he protested too much and probably enjoyed it since, by the end, the story has become a conscious parody.

This, like Lovecraft’s “From Beyond“, features a narrator who grows increasingly afraid of the obsessive hero — here the Aryan Herbert West. (Both the narrator and West are graduates of Miskatonic University’s Medical School making this the first reference to that esteemed university.) Lovecraft presents, accounting for the necessary quirks of its serial origins, a good horror story of how 20 years of botched experiments (including one in France with some war dead) come back to haunt Mr. West. Continue reading

R.I.P. Jeff Carlson

Just heard from his wife Diana Gottfried that writer Jeff Carlson is dead at age 47 from lung cancer. The obituary below is from her.

He was one of those transition authors who started out being published in magazines and by traditional publishers and struck off into his own with self-publishing.

He was a writer of talent and ambition who wrote a variety of stories, and I’ve reviewed several of his works though I have not read any of his Frozen Sky novels.

In my few email exchanges, he was personable sort sometimes was frustrated by the reactions to his work.

Here are the links to his works that I reviewed:

Jeffrey Gustav Carlson

July 20, 1969 – July 17, 2017

Jeff Carlson was born in Mountain View,
California on the same day as the first
manned moon landing and died in Walnut
Creek, California three days before his 48th
birthday. He was strong and fought hard to
survive, but he could not defeat an
extremely virulent cancer.

Given his birthdate and a love of science fiction by his father, mother,
and maternal grandfather, it’s not surprising that Jeff became an avid
reader and successful science fiction author. He had a fabulous mind
and an infinite imagination. He wrote and published 7 novels and a
collection of short stories. His books have been published in 17
languages. Jeff’s prolific career ended too soon. There were so many
more tales to tell…

Jeff’s biggest pride and joy were his two sons. He loved traveling with
his family and enjoyed many outdoor activities, especially snow skiing
and competitive youth soccer as played by his boys.

Jeff is survived by his beloved wife of 17 years, Diana Gottfried, and
their sons John and Ben. He is also survived by his parents, Gus Carlson
and Patti Kelly, and his brother Derek, niece Kylie, and nephew Sam.
Jeff’s other relatives and friends number in the hundreds, his fans in the
many thousands.

His quick wit, exuberant energy, and loving devotion to his family will
be deeply missed.

Remembrances in Jeff’s name may be made to Lung Cancer Alliance,

A Celebration of Jeff’s Life is planned for Saturday, August 12 at 2 PM at
the Danville Community Center, 420 Front Street, Danville, California
94526, (925-314-3400).


For some reason, this review has disappeared from Amazon and was never posted here though I did it within the lifetime of this blog.

Review: Interrupt, Jeff Carlson, 2013.Interrupt

Imagine you are going about your business one day and then you just black out and wake up with no memories of what happened. Maybe you wake up wandering in a strange area or with blood on your hands or in the middle of having sex with a complete stranger.

Such is the premise of Carlson’s novel, fresh with speculations and implications from current science, on what would happen if the sun suddenly manifested its variability with massive electromagnetic pulses which scramble communications and the human brain. Carlson draws from genetic anthropology, geology, physics, SETI, astronomy, and neurology to fuel this modern hard science fiction thriller. And, while the science may be current, the speed and shortness of the novel are refreshingly old-fashioned in their tautness. (For those who have read Carlson’s short story “Interrupt” in his Long Eyes, this is not an expansion but a substantial reworking of the premise of that story.)

The novel centers around three characters:  Emily Flint, researcher on therapies for autistic disorders; Drew Haldane, Navy flier and also operative for ROMEO, an ultra-secret intelligence agency; and Marcus Wolsinger, a radio astronomer tracking variability in the sun’s output. Their loyalties to their communities and families, lovers and friends, institutions and organizations will be tested not only during the collapse of civilization due to the “interrupt” but also by a war between the US and China. Most ominously of all, not everyone is crippled by the intermittent pulses of the interrupt. A select few become murderously efficient in turning on their fellow humans. Or are these killers really human? Continue reading

“From Beyond”

The Lovecraft series.

Raw Feed (2005): “From Beyond”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1920.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

In his introduction to this collection, T. E. D. Klein notes that Lovecraft’s protagonist are usually solitary figures or, if a friend is shown, the friend is there to show the downfall of the protagonist.

This is such a story, and I liked the change of pace.

Crawford Tillinghast is described by his best friend, the narrator, as a man who should never have studied philosophy or science. He embarks on a plan to make the invisible entities around us visible — and, in turn, we will become visible to them and (as it turns out), prey.

I liked the bitterness of the story as Tillinghast, begged by the narrator not to continue his researches, kicks him away and then, eventually, tries to get one of the newly discovered entities from beyond to kill him, all the while gloating that at last the existence of his “pets” will be proven. Of course, it is Tillinghast they ultimately kill. Continue reading