A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Friday, December 31, 2010

Zalchis is Now Live...

http://zalchis.blogspot.com/
What Once Was...Is No More.

Everything is Permitted. Anything is Negotiable. Nothing is Inevitable.

The Worlds are Broken, Lost or Forgotten.

The Stars are Dead, Imprisoned or Beyond All Hope of Recovery.

There are No Cities, No Nations, No Empires...only Ruins, Wreckage and a Dangerous Wasteland curdled and curled about the seething vortex at the Heart-Center of a Dying Universe.

Time is Running Out.

The End is Nigh, Known and Inescapable.

Zalchis endures...for now.

Friday, December 24, 2010

2011 Support Your Library Challenge

Thanks to Book Scorpion for pointing out the 2011 Support Your Library Challenge which is being hosted at the Book Junkie's Bookshelf blog.
Here are the rules:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. Just create a post for the challenge and link to your challenge post in the linky at the bottom of the Challenge post at Book Junkie's Bookshelf.

--Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post at the Book Junkie's Bookshelf.

2. There are four levels to this challenge...Pick your poison:

--The Mini – Check out and read 30 library books.

--"Fun" Size – Check out and read 40 library books.

--Jumbo Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

--Mega Size – Check out and read 51+ library books.
(Aim high. As long as you read 30 by the end of 2011, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – basically any book counts just as long as it is checked out from the library. Books MUST be checked out like with a library card, books purchased at a library DO NOT count.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st 2011 and goes thru December 31 2011.

So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Krampus-mass!

Krampus is Coming...



You can cry, you can shout...



You can run, you can hide...



But Krampus is coming and Mother Berchta isn't far behind...
The Old Ways are still the best ways...
...at least when it comes to Krampus!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A.D.



This looks like it'll be fun...

ROM?


ROM by Tom Whalen
  FLOATING WORLD COMICS PRESENTS:
“SPACENIGHT – A TRIBUTE TO BILL MANTLO”
Show runs December 6th through Jan. 1st.

Floating World Comics (Portland, OR) is holding a Non-Profit Fundraiser for Bill Mantlo featuring over 100 original works of art inspired by Rom Spaceknight. The contributors include: Jeffrey Brown, Sal Buscema, Guy Davis, Renee French, Simon Gane, Ken Garduno, Brandon Graham, Maureen Gubia, Kevin Hooyman, Corey Lewis, Al Milgrom, Jeff Parker, Ron Rege Jr, Zack Soto, Peter Thompson, Gordon Wiebe, Danijel Zezelj and more. The piece up above is by Tom Whalen.

A silent auction will be held for original art, and 11"×17” poster prints of every contribution will be available for a suggested donation of $5 or more, and everything is going to be compiled into a commeroative comic book early next year. More details are availble at the Floating World site, and you can preview a lot of the artwork at the Spaceknight2 blog. It's an incredible show for an incredible cause.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clark Ashton Smith, A Quick Note

Zothique.  Xiccarph. Hyperborea.  Averoigne.  Clark Ashton Smith is one of my all-time favorite authors and artists.  He was a real outsider, not in the HPL sense, but in the artistic sense, in terms of his sculptures, paintings, etc.  Though his poetry did achieve quite a bit of notoriety and critical acclaim early-on in his career.  To this day Smith's poetry from Weird Tales remains lush, vivid, effective...the feverish phantasmal remnants of a timeless genius who stood toe-to-toe with pulp giants and literary leviathans and out-did them all, often beating them at their own game. 

While I originally intended to compile an Autho Profile on Clark Ashton Smith, much as I did for E. A. Poe and Leigh Brackett, it appears that the notes for that piece have been lost and will have to be re-compiled, which will take time that just isn't available right now...so a full Profile on CAS will have to wait for later in our schedule, possibly in the Spring.  In the meantime, one of the better Bios for Smith is at Alan Gullette's site, and the single most important and useful site out there for all things related to Clark Ashton Smith remains The Eldritch Dark.  The absolute best place to start in terms of finding out who Clark Ashton Smith was, and to sample his incredible Weird Fiction (including some examples of his unpublished story fragments!) is The Eldritch Dark.  If only someone would build such a wonderful online archive/shrine for Leigh Brackett as well...

You can see a nice selection of cover art from Clark Ashton Smith's various books over at the Lord of the Green Dragons blog.  There are a few in that selection that I hadn't seen before, so I know it's well worth checking out.

Recently I discovered a site that makes a number of Clark Ashton Smith stories available as downloadable audiobooks.  For example The Maze of Maal Dweb, which I've embedded below.  Just click and it ought to play right there:
The Maze Of Maal Dweb - Clark Ashton Smith on Huffduffer

This site is called Huffduffer and the link for the Maal Dweb story is: The Maze Of Maal Dweb - Clark Ashton Smith on Huffduffer  You can also find City of the Singing Flame, Empire of the Necromancers, The Charnel God, The Dark Eidolon,  and The Brass Ornament--this last is a story that I had not read previously, so it was fun to discover something of Smith's that was 'new' to me.  The folks at Huffduffer also have a nice selection of other audiobooks, if you're at all inclined to listen to such things, it's an interesting service and I thought it might possibly be of interest to fellow CAS-fanatics.

Speaking of fellow Smithophiles, the Mad Man of Carcosa Geofferey McKinney is hard at work developing a Fresh New Clark Ashton Smith-inspired RPG supplement titled Isle of the Unknown, which the one and only Mr. Raggi's Lamentation of the Flame Princess will be bringing out --alongside a slightly revamped Carcosa. You can expect the new Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown in Spring of 2011.  Those two maniac-brainiacs working together on an old school CAS-inspired project is very promising news indeed, no matter which or whatever clique cult school you choose to affiliate with or flag-wave on behalf of...if you check out McKinney's blog, you can get details on his creative process this time around and determine for yourself if it sounds like your cup o' tea.  Personally, I think that it sounds absolutely fascinating...

We'll have an author profile on Clark Ashton Smith, and a closer look at some of his more over-looked stories, eventually.
The Stars Are Right
It's Alive

Cthulhu Ate My Comics is becoming Has Become
its own glow-in-the-dark
Cthulhu & Comics abominablog.

Old School Heretic will now resume its irregularly scheduled abnormal programming.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cross-Gen Revived

Marvel Launches Crossgen Imprint in March
This just in from Scoop:
Marvel Comics will launch a new imprint, Crossgen, in March 2011, with two four-issue mini-series, Ruse and Sigil.

Mike Carey (Age of X) and Leonard Kirk (New Mutants) will be the creative team on Sigil #1, and Mark Waid (Stan Lee’s The Traveler) and Mirco Pierfederici (Tron: Original Movie Adaptation) will kick off Ruse #1.
You can read the rest of the Marvel Launches New Cross-Gen Imprint article at the Scoop site.

ABC News covered this matter, So has ComicsNexus, and others will no doubt get vocal as the March debute draws near. This is a fairly big deal as it involves a defunct publisher's relic-IP being zombified resurrected (and Marvel-ized! for your protection & comfort) by Marvel through the back-door of its corporate parent-company Disney. One look at this story and it is apparent to anyone with more than two functional brain cells currently in simultaneous operation that this is a very low-risk test-case scenario for Disney-Marvel. What other old, defunct, gobbled-up properties are there to be re-discovered and trotted out from deep wtihin the recesses of Disney's manifold corporate corpus?

It feels as though Disney/Marvel has been on the verge of becoming the IP-equivalent of Shub Niggurath spewing forth Revised, Revamped, Rebooted, Reconfigured, Ret-Conned and Regurgitated versions of various defunct and assimilated properties for a while now. They have been dipping into the older Atlas stuff that they inherited to develop the intriguingly off-beat quasi-Noir Agents of Atlas, they've reprised and extensively ret-Conned the Invaders (mostly to good effect, though Blazing Skull is NOT Ghost Rider...he's a Tulpa, DUH!) and there are other examples of this sort of thing, too many to fully catalog. DC is doing the same things with Red Circle (which they've assimilated after dropping the Impact line), etc. Maybe it's a competition? Could it be some sort of strange comic book arms-race of obscure and defunct titles/characters being resucitated and sent out to compete in the marketplace-arena of modern comics fandom. It's also a very old, time-honored and integral practice within comics publishing. As one publisher absorbed the defunct, stunned or stone-dead husk of another publisher, they have rebooted and incorporated any of those older characters into the 'current' line-up as they saw fit. Consider Fawcett's characters like Captain Marvel, or Charlton's Blue Beetle or Captain Atom in the DC universe. Look at how DC has brought back a DC-ified relaunch of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. It's an absolutely fascinating ongoing process of tulpa-like evolution and memetic-exchange and re-discovery. Heck, the Blue Beetle had already been handed-off between at least three different publishers before he landed at DC, so at least he's used to this sort of thing.

Shared universes aren't all that new of an idea, and the comics industry has been exploring some rather interesting approaches to reconciling the collision and assimilation/integration of parallel universes and inherited characters for decades now.

What I find most compelling and intriguing about this ongoing cycle of integration and amalgamation is the way it is all managed and directed and driven by market forces, not the creative process. This is a blatant intrusion of economics into the mythosphere and we've pretty much all just taken it for granted. Ho hum. So some obscure nitwit in tights used to be featured in stories put out by this company or that now-defunct publisher and now they're the property of some other company. Yawn. Who cares? Maybe someone ought to care. Like Rupert Murdoch did for news, a few megacorps are swallowing-up the remnants of the past and while they are at it, they are making substantial land-grabs of otherwise Public Domain characters. Older, neglected and lost characters are getting revised by the corporate titans so that they can establish and defend a trademark on characters that they have no more claim to than you or I...but once they have Their Trademarked Version of these characters, it effectively puts a major chill on anyone else's use or devleopment of them. It blocks other expressions, other versions, and makes the process of using these legacy properties/characters more of a mine-field than is ethical, reasonable or right. These are often the same people who preach the gospel of the so-called Free Market and Nonintervention by 'Big Government', despite their lobbying for extensions, protections and special treatment any time it looks like the Copyright Law might finally apply to them. But we can let the rhetoric/non-politics hang. There's work to be done, opportunities to go develop and Amazingly Cool Things to Do.

Companies that have built their fortunes upon the Public Domain ought to respect the source from which their wealth has come and respect the Public Domain. But Disney absolutely does not respect the Public Domain, despite having pilfered it ruthlessly and often from the very beginnings of Walt's non-union shop. It is just plain wrong to base your work on the Public Domain and then prevent anyone else from doing the same in return to your works. I'll refrain from invoking Steamboat Willy. This is a topic that used to get me steamed. Now it's something that I find engages my problem-solving tendencies along fun and potentially productive avenues. Why get het-up when you can do something about it? Look at what Dynamite is doing with Public Domain characters in their incredible Project Superpowers projects like at this Squidoo page, Wikia, or Wikipedia. Things are far from grim. If anything, there's more opportunity to delve into the Public Domain in a really big way now, more than ever before. Besides, time is on the side of the Public Domain. Even Disney will one day find it no longer cost-effective to legally game the system. But that's a tangent, and we can come back to it another day.

Getting back on track with the whole CrossGen/Marvel thing, this reminds me of how DC has been integrating a lot of their inherited properties of late, like the Phantom Lady and Uncle Sam. Over at Wikipedia, you can find a list of Quality, Fawcett & Charlton Characters Who Have Not Appeared in DC Comics Yet. Consider it a checklist that DC editorial will no doubt be examining for ideas soon enough.

It isn't just DC and Marvel that ahve been mining the Obscure and the Forgotten-- Moonstone, Boom! , AC and Dynamite have been bringing back older, often forgotten characters. Some of these are more successful than others, such as the enjoyableThe Last Phantom series from Dynamite. Despite the 'Last' in the title, maybe there's a chance we'll finally see a black Phantom before the next millennium? Who knows. There's a black Heimdall in Thor, so maybe some measure of progress is taking place after all...after a fashion...so to speak...

DC has also incorporated Eisner's The Spirt, Doc Savage, and The Shadow into their universe. Which is not new, either, as both Marvel and DC (as well as Gold Key, Street & Smith, Skylark, Millennium & Dark Horse) have done their own comic book re-interpretations of both Doc Savage and The Shadow over the years. It can get confusing, but there is a wonderful flowchart that maps out how things migrate from Copyrighted to Public Domain that might help out a little. If you care. Which I do.

So. CrossGen is coming back. More or less. This is akin in many respects to the Return of Atlas. Maybe it's a trend? Nah. It's busienss as usual in the Comics Industry, and that makes it all the more interesting and just plain weird all at once. Do petty godlings sit around boardroom tables discussing the relaunch of previously Ragnaroked universes? They do in the Comics Biz. Regularly and often.

What Once Was...



And What Will Be...



and...


Some CrossGen Links

CamC: Cross-Gen Revived

This just in from Scoop:
Marvel Launches Crossgen Imprint in March
Marvel Comics will launch a new imprint, Crossgen, in March 2011, with two four-issue mini-series, Ruse and Sigil.

Mike Carey (Age of X) and Leonard Kirk (New Mutants) will be the creative team on Sigil #1, and Mark Waid (Stan Lee’s The Traveler) and Mirco Pierfederici (Tron: Original Movie Adaptation) will kick off Ruse #1.
You can read the rest of the Marvel Launches New Cross-Gen Imprint article at the Scoop site.

ABC News covered this matter, So has ComicsNexus, and others will no doubt get vocal as the March debute draws near. This is a fairly big deal as it involves a defunct publisher's relic-IP being zombified resurrected (and Marvel-ized! for your protection & comfort) by Marvel through the back-door of its corporate parent-company Disney. One look at this story and it is apparent to anyone with more than two functional brain cells currently in simultaneous operation that this is a very low-risk test-case scenario for Disney-Marvel. What other old, defunct, gobbled-up properties are there to be re-discovered and trotted out from deep wtihin the recesses of Disney's manifold corporate corpus?

It feels as though Disney/Marvel has been on the verge of becoming the IP-equivalent of Shub Niggurath spewing forth Revised, Revamped, Rebooted, Reconfigured, Ret-Conned and Regurgitated versions of various defunct and assimilated properties for a while now. They have been dipping into the older Atlas stuff that they inherited to develop the intriguingly off-beat quasi-Noir Agents of Atlas, they've reprised and extensively ret-Conned the Invaders (mostly to good effect, though Blazing Skull is NOT Ghost Rider...he's a Tulpa, DUH!) and there are other examples of this sort of thing, too many to fully catalog. DC is doing the same things with Red Circle (which they've assimilated after dropping the Impact line), etc. Maybe it's a competition? Could it be some sort of strange comic book arms-race of obscure and defunct titles/characters being resucitated and sent out to compete in the marketplace-arena of modern comics fandom. It's also a very old, time-honored and integral practice within comics publishing. As one publisher absorbed the defunct, stunned or stone-dead husk of another publisher, they have rebooted and incorporated any of those older characters into the 'current' line-up as they saw fit. Consider Fawcett's characters like Captain Marvel, or Charlton's Blue Beetle or Captain Atom in the DC universe. Look at how DC has brought back a DC-ified relaunch of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. It's an absolutely fascinating ongoing process of tulpa-like evolution and memetic-exchange and re-discovery. Heck, the Blue Beetle had already been handed-off between at least three different publishers before he landed at DC, so at least he's used to this sort of thing.

Shared universes aren't all that new of an idea, and the comics industry has been exploring some rather interesting approaches to reconciling the collision and assimilation/integration of parallel universes and inherited characters for decades now.

What I find most compelling and intriguing about this ongoing cycle of integration and amalgamation is the way it is all managed and directed and driven by market forces, not the creative process. This is a blatant intrusion of economics into the mythosphere and we've pretty much all just taken it for granted. Ho hum. So some obscure nitwit in tights used to be featured in stories put out by this company or that now-defunct publisher and now they're the property of some other company. Yawn. Who cares? Maybe someone ought to care. Like Rupert Murdoch did for news, a few megacorps are swallowing-up the remnants of the past and while they are at it, they are making substantial land-grabs of otherwise Public Domain characters. Older, neglected and lost characters are getting revised by the corporate titans so that they can establish and defend a trademark on characters that they have no more claim to than you or I...but once they have Their Trademarked Version of these characters, it effectively puts a major chill on anyone else's use or devleopment of them. It blocks other expressions, other versions, and makes the process of using these legacy properties/characters more of a mine-field than is ethical, reasonable or right. These are often the same people who preach the gospel of the so-called Free Market and Nonintervention by 'Big Government', despite their lobbying for extensions, protections and special treatment any time it looks like the Copyright Law might finally apply to them. But we can let the rhetoric/non-politics hang. There's work to be done, opportunities to go develop and Amazingly Cool Things to Do.

Companies that have built their fortunes upon the Public Domain ought to respect the source from which their wealth has come and respect the Public Domain. But Disney absolutely does not respect the Public Domain, despite having pilfered it ruthlessly and often from the very beginnings of Walt's non-union shop. It is just plain wrong to base your work on the Public Domain and then prevent anyone else from doing the same in return to your works. I'll refrain from invoking Steamboat Willy. This is a topic that used to get me steamed. Now it's something that I find engages my problem-solving tendencies along fun and potentially productive avenues. Why get het-up when you can do something about it? Look at what Dynamite is doing with Public Domain characters in their incredible Project Superpowers projects like at this Squidoo page, Wikia, or Wikipedia. Things are far from grim. If anything, there's more opportunity to delve into the Public Domain in a really big way now, more than ever before. Besides, time is on the side of the Public Domain. Even Disney will one day find it no longer cost-effective to legally game the system. But that's a tangent, and we can come back to it another day.

Getting back on track with the whole CrossGen/Marvel thing, this reminds me of how DC has been integrating a lot of their inherited properties of late, like the Phantom Lady and Uncle Sam. Over at Wikipedia, you can find a list of Quality, Fawcett & Charlton Characters Who Have Not Appeared in DC Comics Yet. Consider it a checklist that DC editorial will no doubt be examining for ideas soon enough.

It isn't just DC and Marvel that ahve been mining the Obscure and the Forgotten-- Moonstone, Boom! , AC and Dynamite have been bringing back older, often forgotten characters. Some of these are more successful than others, such as the enjoyableThe Last Phantom series from Dynamite. Despite the 'Last' in the title, maybe there's a chance we'll finally see a black Phantom before the next millennium? Who knows. There's a black Heimdall in Thor, so maybe some measure of progress is taking place after all...after a fashion...so to speak...

DC has also incorporated Eisner's The Spirt, Doc Savage, and The Shadow into their universe. Which is not new, either, as both Marvel and DC (as well as Gold Key, Street & Smith, Skylark, Millennium & Dark Horse) have done their own comic book re-interpretations of both Doc Savage and The Shadow over the years. It can get confusing, but there is a wonderful flowchart that maps out how things migrate from Copyrighted to Public Domain that might help out a little. If you care. Which I do.

So. CrossGen is coming back. More or less. This is akin in many respects to the Return of Atlas. Maybe it's a trend? Nah. It's busienss as usual in the Comics Industry, and that makes it all the more interesting and just plain weird all at once. Do petty godlings sit around boardroom tables discussing the relaunch of previously Ragnaroked universes? They do in the Comics Biz. Regularly and often.

What Once Was...



And What Will Be...



and...


Some CrossGen Links

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Poll Results

Thank you to everyone who voted. We appreciate it.

Our first installment of Troublesome Things will focus on how to handle magic before it becomes too powerful and ways to scale it back down if it has already spiralled out of control.

We'll follow that up with articles on Raising the Dead/Resurrection, Languages, How to Make Magic Relevant (Not Weak), and some thoughts on Alignment.

The new series will start off after the holidays. We should have a new poll for you later today.

Another Kind of Robot



Bollywood meets science fiction. It looks like a lot of fun. Find out more at the Official site.

Some Excellent Advice

Holly Lisle recently posted an interesting article on the merits of Why Everyone Shouldn't Like You.  It is a very thoughtful, honest and thought-provoking article that deserves to be read. Highly recommended.

2000AD...all at once



Feel the burn...

2000AD...all at once



Feel the burn...


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jess Nevins is a Superhero


Jess Nevins is a Scholar. He's the type of Bibliophile & Pop-Cultural Scholar that would be right at home in Riskail, and I mean that in the best possible way. His work in Annotating various comic book series such as Kingdom Come led into his compiling a series of in-depth Annotations for Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neil's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which in turn led to the publication of his annotations (plus some essays, a great introduction and an interview with Alan Moore as well) as Heroes & Monsters . A second volume, A Blazing World, was likewise compiled from Nevin's erudite annotations and informed ruminations concerning the League's Second Series. He has also gone on to annotate The Black Dossier in his Impossible Territories, and Century: 1910, which is an on-going project that you can find here.

If you want a quick idea of just how formidable a task it is that Nevins took on in annotating the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, take a look at this list of the literary characters appearing in these 'funny-books.'

But that's just one example/project. Jess Nevin has also compiled a very thorough and eminently readable & enjoyable essay on Timely Comics, the shop that became Atlas and then Marvel. He has also expanded upon that essay with a number of follow-up essays on many of the classic and criminally neglected Timely Comics Characters such as The Blue Blaze, The American Avenger, Dakor The Magician, The Invisible Man, Hercules, The Thin Man, The Black Widow, Merzah The Mystic, The Black Marvel, and even Sub-Earth Man. Whew. And there's more. Like the 3Xs, but that's enough for now. Fascinating stuff. The Thin Man isn't Nick Charles, he's a super-scientist from a happy valley in the Himalayas who can turn himself super thin to get into places ordinary guys can't. Oh and he has a beautiful assistant named Oalla who helps him out. Likewise the Timely Comics' Black Widow isn't a Russian spy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Scarlett Johanssen, but rather is the "...strangest, most terrifying character in action picture magazines - the Black Widow. You've heard of the black widow spider - that evil creature whose bite spells doom. Now start the adventures of another black widow - a human tool of Satan whose very touch means death." Yeah. You read it. They wrote it. This is a character that I definitely want to learn more about, and probably would never have learned about at all if it hadn't been for Jess Nevins--Superhero Scholar and Librarian of the Lost Antiquities of Pop Literature. Ah the Golden Age of Comics, the more I learn about it, the more I come to realize just how short-changed we've been thanks to corporate myopia and greed...but that's a topic for another day, another post.

But there's much, much more. Jess Nevins has also done a great deal of research and annotation involving the Golden Age Superheroes and the Pre-Fantastic Four #1 Superheroes of Marvel Comics (The comics Giant that grew out of Timely above...).  He offers you a glimpse into the forgotten and buried secret history of the Blazing Skull, Dynamic Man, The Eternal Brain, KaZar (before he became a hippy), and Vagabond & the Fighting Hobo (Both of whom sound like off-beat heroes that you might meet in The City), amongst many, many others. (Some of whom overlap with the aforementioned Timely characters, being in fact direct continuations or revisions of those earlier superheroes--comics, especially older comics, are more than a little cannibalistic as well as incestuous.) There is even a page devoted to the Lost Generation of Marvel heroes active prior to the Fantastic Four's fateful (and all-too-often-and-Badly-RetConned) rocket-trip. You can find more details on the Lost generation characters here.

He has also has contributed some rather intriguing things to the Wold Newton Universe community such as the priceless You Weren't Nuthin' But A Hound Dog essay that really throws the WNU to the dogs by speculating on the canine descendants of a bitch irradiated by the meteor that set all of the WNU into motion in 1795. You can find a set of links to Nevin's WNU essays here. The essays on The Carters of Virginia: A Tragedy and Reach For Yuh Genealogical Charts, Stranger are really well-done. It is especially weird and wonderful to consider the implications of John Carter (Warlord of Mars) being related to Randolph Carter (the Silver Key wielding Dream-master from HPL's tales).  It certainly is one way to make a Statement. Nevins is also a contributor to the Win Scott Eckert edited anthology of P. J. Farmer WNU-focused parascholarship Myths for a Modern Age.

Have you ever heard of Captain Mors aka der Luftpirat? You can find out about this forgotten hero of the German Dime-Novels of the Early Twentieth-Century. In some respects he gives a German spin on Verne's Robur the Conquerer (with some Robin Hood style quasi-socialism) and might even be considered a distinct predecessor to Perry Rhodan. His adventures were far-ranging to say the least, extending out unto the rest of our solar system and possibly beyond in at least 165 installments, most of which remain in German. The dime-novel series featuring Captian Mors was very possibly the first Science Fiction magazine, but that's an argument for Scholars to settle with their swords. In the meantime, you can check out one of the two E-Text versions of Captain Mor's adventures here, thanks to Jess Nevins (and Justin Gilbert who translated it over from the German). Like Perry Rhodan and Dray Prescott, there is a great deal of this stuff that is trapped in German language just begging to be translated and unleashed upon an otherwise unsuspecting English-reading audience...

If you are at all interested in doing research into Literature, Art, Books, Comics, Maps, Medieval Stuff, History, or Role Playing (amongst many other things), Jess Nevins provides pages upon pages of links and references for you to make use of including his exceptional list of Reference Texts. And yes, I realize that his page of Role-Playing links is a bit out of date, but with all the stuff this guy has going on, that's perfectly understandable, and besides, it's still a very extensive list that is worth investigating. The Anarchy & Espionage page is perhaps my favorite of the bunch, but that's because it is the most appropriate to the next few Riskail posts. You can find a directory-list of Jess Nevins assorted Bookmarks here. It's quite a lot of resources, so you'll definitely want to bookmark it yourself.

Nevins has also built an Online Directory to Golden Age Heroes that offers a listing of just about every known Golden Age Hero from 1935-1949, all arranged from A to Z and navigated via the little box on the upper left. This is an incredible treasure-trove of obscure, esoteric and mostly forgotten information sure to help others in their research efforts. It's a handy reference for digging back through the accumulated data-debris in order to look up or locate obscure old characters that might have fallen not only into obscurity, but the Public Domain. Alternative sites in this area include The Mystery Men & Mystery Women Encyclopedia, Hero Goggles' Golden Age Superhero and Villain Encyclopedia, Cash Gorman's Golden Age Encyclopedia, Mikel Midnight's Golden Age Directory, and others whom I hope to get to in the near future. And of course there is Jeff Rovin's amazing Encyclopedia of Super Heroes. You might also want to check out Lev Gleasons' Comics Page for a bunch more Golden Age links.

If you're a fan of the classic superhero Lee Falk's Phantom then you might want to check out these posts over at Nevins' No Fear of the Future blog: Painted by Pygmies, and The Color Purple (as rendered in black newspaper ink).  He also maintains a Livejournal that is simply fascinating, if you are interested in the market shares of the old Pulps from back in their hey day, which I actually am. All those numbers came out of the process of assembling The Pulp Magazine Holding Directory, which is about as rampant a bit of nerdistry as you can shake a stick at, but it's damn cool...to anyone really, really interested in the Pulps.

You can also find a wonderful article at io9 by Jess Nevins that details the development of Science Fiction from out of the Pulps.

And if you are interested in the Pulp and Adventure Heroes of the Pre-War Years then you need to go here. Right now. No fooling. Jess Nevins has compiled another incredible collection of Heroes dragged from the cold wreckage of the earliest days of the Pulp and Adventure magazine days, all of it alphabetized, annotated and presented as a wonderful jumping-off point for really diving into this are of the Pop Cultural Underworld/Wasteland for days on end.

Then there's the vast amount of Fantastic Victoriana stuff that Jess Nevins has likewise compiled, annotated and converted into an Encyclopedia of the Fantastic Victoriana. The site offers you a wealth of incredible, well-researched and fun essays that range from A to Z.  He has also included at this site a detailed list of links for researching the Fantastic Victoriana all for yourself--a true gift to every would-be steampunk and Victoriaphile out there.

Is this the end for Jess Nevins? Not by a long shot. But it is the end of this post.


Heavy Metal Thunder on the Horizon

Thor looks like fun. I admit to drastically lowered expectations going into this, but step by step that they've raised the bar a bit each time I've read about the pre-production process, and I've gone from a very reluctant 'let's get it over with,' to actually wanting to see this movie. I wasn't worried whether or not they'd ever get the character 'right,' just that they'd make the movie actually interesting and worth watching. Thor, the Marvel Comics Thor, is a character that has had a lot of false starts and been plagued by a lot of bad creative choices or just plain uninspired mishandling. This trailer seems suitably mythic and epic and heck, they've even tossed-in the Destroyer, so it will have at least one really good fight, one hopes...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jenny Everywhere: An Open Source Character

The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition.
This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere,
in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed
Jenny Everywhere is an Open-Source Character--possibly the very first Open Source Character intentionally developed and created specifically for use by anyone. The only rule about using her is that your work must have this notation:
While most of Jenny's adventures, as well as her various artistic interpretations, are under copyright to their respective creators (including her first appearance) the character and the idea of this character are free for anyone and everyone to use. The image we've included up above has been declared public domain to give creators a starting point in their efforts at interpreting, incorporating or exploring this character in their own creative projects.
Jenny Everywhere was originally developed via the Barbelith online community. She was created by Steven Wintle & the Barbelith.com community in a collaborative effort that is still mostly available for all to see here.  Her first image was composed by 'Moriarty' and declared Public Domain. You can find copies of this image here, here, and here.

The discussion regarding Open Source Comic Book Characters at Barbelith is a very intriguing relic of imagination at work. It has a lot of ideas that might be of use or interest to anyone else who decides to explore this territory.  One such experiment is by no means enough. Not by a long shot. That's why there are other Open Source Characters such as Victory Girl, Selina the Moon Maiden, Captain Atomic, or Captain Prodigy--who you have got to check out for yourself as no one would ever believe it if I told you the origin of this particular Open Source Character.  Wow. Evelyn Ramirez/Captain Prodigy might be a lot of fun to turn over to Inmate93... "By the Power of Nyarlathotep!" Fun stuff.

There is a Jenny Everywhere Clearing House and Update Point at Barbelith which should be handy to anyone seeking to bring Jenny Everywhere into their games, campaigns, settings, comics, fiction or whatever.

The Shifter Archive is your guide to all things Jenny Everywhere, and of course August 13th is Jenny Everywhere Day, so mark your calendars. Netherwerks plans on doing something special for Jenny Everywhere this coming Aug. 13th.  The Jenny Everywhere Day blog also features a very nicely done Who Is Jenny Everywhere page that is worth taking a look at if you're at all interested in this character or the amazing viral-tulpa-like process that produced it, ahem, I mean Her.

You can find more Jenny Everywhere information at this Wiki, and follow her continuing adventures in the Jenny Everywhere Chronicles webcomic produced by Benji Christensen & Scott D. M. Simmons.

Oh and yes, there is already an Anti-Jenny: Jenny Nowhere, who is also an Open Source Character with the same requirements for use as Jenny above. Where Jenny Everywhere remains fairly recognizable from universe to universe, Jenny Nowhere remains only consistent in her name. She makes a great contrasting opponent/antagonist and a very intriguing foil for Jenny Everywhere as they run into one another again and again across all the wide Omniverse...

By this time next year, we here at Netherwerks plan to launch our own Open Source Character into the murksome seas of the Public Domain. It sounds like a fun challenge.

This concept of Open Source Characters may also have some bearing on the nascent revival of shared-world campaigning, and open world gaming that has been getting mentioned over at The Hill Cantons such as here and here...and here.
"The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed."

13 Commandments for Writing Suckitudinous Fiction

The one and only Holly Lisle has an incredible article on How To Write Suckitudinous Fiction. It made me laugh. It made me wince. It has given me a lot to think about as I continue to hone my skills and work away on fiction that hopefully doesn't suck. This is definitely one for the Writing Resources folder...

Alphaville at 24 frames per second

This is still the future in 1965

"The truth is that there is no terror untempered by some great moral idea."
Jean-Luc Godard
Dystopian Science Fiction, Surrealist Poetry, gratuitous Film Noir sensibilities, a Nazi-esque mad scientist who was once named Nosferatu, a seductress third class, Alpha 60 the tyrannical vampiric-computer ruler of an oppressive City of the Future—only in a French movie from 1965. Only in a French Science Fiction-Noir movie by Jean Luc Godard.  I hope they have this available at Netflix. I very much want to watch it again--it's been too long.


What an incredibly strange and wonderful thing to re-discover in-between The Machine Stops and Doctor Mabuse. Truly. Researching things for this blog just gets more fun every week.

Here's a clip from Youtube:

 
Cool stuff.
 
Here're some links to help you track down more Alphaville goodness:
and, just for the heck of it...

The Machine Stops


Long before there was an Alphaville or Logan's Run, there was E. M. Forster's The Machine Stops. Written in 1909 as a reaction to one of H. G. Wells' technosocialist utopias, The Machine Stops is amazingly prescient in its depiction of videoconferencing and life in a sedentary, emotionally-isolated, society completely at the mercy of its technology. In the best dystopian tradition, the machine that was built to take care of things develops into a tyrannical bully that seizes political power, then assumes the mantle of a false god which everyone worships for fear of being declared 'unmechanical' which is punished with homelessness.


It's a classic story, well told and very much ahead of its time.

A UK science fiction TV show called Out of the Unknown did a TV adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic dystopian story The Machine Stops in 1966 and you can watch it now thanks to Google Video.



A Few Links Where you can find a copy of The Machine Stops to download, read, or let the machine read to you--until it stops, that is...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Wold Newton Day!

Picture from The Offical P.J.Farmer Homepage: http://www.pjfarmer.com/
Today is Wold Newton Day. To celebrate it in style, be sure to visit the All Pulp site where they are featuring tons of Wold Newton features, articles, and more in commemoration of the meteor that re-shaped literary history forever.

The Wold Newton Universe is a crazy, mixed-up place full of all the classic heroes and villains of popular literature and more. Originated by Philip Jose Farmer in his recently reissued classic of literary pseudo-scholarship and faux-biographies Tarzan Lives, and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, the Wold Newton Family set forth by P.J.Farmer soon morphed and mutated into the Wold Newton Universe (WNU) thanks in large part to Win Scott Eckert who is credited with sparking the hyper-creative expansion and on-going evolution of Farmer's original concept into the thriving field of parascholarship and literary crossover-ification that it has become today. The librarian-superhero Jess Nevins, the Warrenverse's Chris Nigro (Who also contributed to this post by the way), and several other stalwart and scholarly adventurers have likewise set sail upon the high seas of Post-Farmerian Wold Newtonry and our own universe is far better for it.

Those two books from the 1970s began what we today call the field of creative mythography (coined by Win Scott Eckert) or parascholarship.  Farmer introduced the concept of many the world's most famous, infamous and even in some cases overlooked or obscure fictional characters sharing a common ancestral lineage (based upon the meteorite crash in the town of Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England, on December 13,1795) and co-inhabiting the same reality. Farmer established a means by which all the literary characters of the past that he cared to meddle with or make use of were now fair game to his schemes and machinations--though in some cases Copyrights and Trademarks did present something of an obstacle.  But not for long as can be witnessed by Farmer's reinvention of both Tarzan and Doc Savage in his Lord Grandith and Doc Caliban novels A Feast Unknown, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin.

Farmer's The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, (an official crossover between Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes), and The Other Log of Phineas Fogg further explored and developed the Wold Newton concept, as did his excellent A Barnstormer in Oz.

Farmer also produced a very good and very official Doc Savage novel Escape From Loki, which is well worth tracking down if you're at all a fan of the Man of Bronze.

Philip Jose Farmer is probably best known and remembered for his Riverworld, World of Tiers and Dungeon series as well as such books as A Barnstormer in Oz, Hadon of Ancient Opar and many, many others. His intense scholarship and mind-wrenchingly brilliant and exhaustive work in developing faux autobiographies of both Tarzan and Doc Savage is what set the whole Wold Newton ball of wax into motion. The Official PJF website has a page dedicated to Farmer's Wold Newton works that is very much worth taking a look at, if only to get some idea of the depth and bredth of this particular literary Rabbit Hole.  (Just the Tarzan or the Doc Savage Chronologies that Win Scott Eckert has contributed to the Farmer website can keep you busy for weeks, months, years...may the Gods ahve mercy on your soul if you click here.)

Alan Moore, an extraodinary gentleman and another very accomplished adept of the literary crossover, speaks frankly about P. J. Farmer in this interview. Win Scott Eckert has edited a truly memorable anthology of Farmer's original essays and a wealth of other Wold Newton information titled Myths For The Modern Age, which is available from Monkeybrain Books.  There is also a recent anthology of Wold Newton/Farmerian goodness that has been published by Meteor House titled The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer, an excerpt of the first 200 words from Eckert's tale Is He In Hell? is now available hereBlack Coat Press and their Tales of the Shadowmen series as well as the 2-volume Crossovers books are also very fun WNU resources.  The PulpNet site also offers a nice overview of the Wold Newton Universe concept.

One of the best first places to go in order to learn about the Wold Newton Universe would be Farmer's Tarzan Alive and/or Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, and Win Scott Eckart's incredible treasure house of a web pages hosted by the PJFarmer site. After that, there are so many links, so many authors, so much material and so little time that you're pretty much on your own. It's an incredible literary labyrinth and imaginative play-ground...and it is highly addictive. Consider yourself forewarned. There is no known cure, should you succumb to the dubious wiles and insidious plots & counterplots of the WNU.

Two other Wold Newton sites to consider are The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe by Dennis Power, and The French Wold Newton Universe by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier.  Chris Nigredo's very detailed articles on Horror Hosts and the Brady Bunch can both to be found on The Secret History of the Wold Newton Universe site as examples of the diverse array of characters and concepts that various creative mythographers have worked on incorporating into the WNU.


The WNU is a huge macro-topic, and with Chris Nigro's and others expert help, this is just the beginning of our explorations of the Wold Newton Universe via this blog.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hey Piranesi!


Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) No, not the wrestler Batista, the Italian artist, engraver and creator of one of the most memorable Megadungeons of all time The Prisons (Carceri d'invenzione).  This amazing work of fantastical underworld designs was issued in 1745 and reissued, with alterations, in 1761. It remains an impressive and highly influential bit of work that has impacted any number of RPG designers, including Professor M. A. R. Barker who was inspired by Piranesi's fantastical etchings in his own design work on the infamous Underworlds of Tekumel.  You can see a complete set of Piranesi's Carceri at the CGFA site.  Another great place to locate Piranesi's images is the New York Public Library.

The Gothic arch. Digital ID: 1694244. New York Public Library

A Few Good Piranesi Links
The round tower. Digital ID: 1694238. New York Public Library

Piranesi as a Negative Visionary
(With a Quick Detour in Respect to Theodore Gericault & Aldous Huxley)

Piranesi has been referred to as a 'Negative Visionary.' This term might have been first coined by Aldous Huxley who explained his conception of a Negative Visionary in one of the appendices to Heaven and Hell (1956) in a section concerning Théodore Géricault, the Romantic painter who created the famous The Raft of the Medusa which was painted in 1819 and was later used on the cover of the Pogues' Rum, Sodomy & The Lash. Good times.

Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa
Huxley had this to say about Gericault:
"Géricault was a negative visionary; for though his art was almost obsessively true to nature, it was true to a nature that had been magically transfigured, in his perceiving and rendering of it, for the worse. 'I start to paint a woman,' he once said, 'but it always ends up as a lion.' More often, indeed, it ended up as something a good deal less amiable than a lion—as a corpse, for example, or a demon. His masterpiece, the prodigious Raft of the Medusa, was painted not from life but from dissolution and decay—from bits of cadavers supplied by medical students, from the emaciated torso and jaundiced face of a friend who was suffering from a disease of the liver. Even the waves on which the raft is floating, even the over-arching sky are corpse colored. It is as though the entire universe had become a dissecting room."
And:
"From the accounts which his friends have left of him it is evident that Géricault habitually saw the world about him as a succession of apocalypses. The prancing horse of his early Officer de Chasseurs was seen one morning on the road to Saint-Cloud, in a dusty glare of summer sunshine, rearing and plunging between the shafts of an omnibus. The personages in the Raft of the Medusa were painted in finished detail, one by one, on the virgin canvas. There was no outline drawing of the whole composition, no gradual building up of an over-all harmony of tones and hues. Each particular revelation—of a body in decay, of a sick man in the ghastly extremity of hepatitis—was fully rendered as it was seen and artistically realized. By a miracle of genius, every successive apocalypse was made to fit, prophetically, into a harmonious composition which existed, when the first of the appalling visions was transferred to canvas, only in the artist's imagination."
Take a look at Gericault's painting above or via one of the handy links.  The original painting is 193.3 inches × 282.3 inches.  That's over 16 feet tall by over 23 feet wide.  The guy painted this thing without drawing any sort of outline first. He just did it.  Wow.

So, according to Huxley's interpretation, a Negative Visionary would be someone whose '...art was almost obsessively true to nature ... true to a nature that had been magically transfigured, in his perceiving and rendering of, for the worse.'

Negative Visionary is definitely going into the sorcerous lexicon & repertoire of Riskail. Sorcerer-artists who paint portraits of people who are then transfigured by the artwork, becoming bestial parodies, bizarre abnormalities and/or freakish alternative versions of themselves as depicted and magically deranged by the artist's sorcerous re-interpretation of them.  This is so very Riskail.  Rallu will have to run into one of these sorts of artists early-on in his career as a critic. Definitely.

To get back to Piranesi, here's a quote from the Savoy link mentioned above:
“The most disquietingly obvious fact about all these dungeons is the perfect pointlessness which reigns throughout. Their architecture is colossal and magnificent. One is made to feel that the genius of great artists and the labor of innumerable slaves have gone into the creation of these monuments, every detail of which is completely without a purpose. Yes, without a purpose: for the staircases lead nowhere, the vaults support nothing but their own weight and enclose vast spaces that are never truly rooms, but only ante-rooms, lumber-rooms, vestibules, outhouses. And this magnificence of Cyclopean stone is everywhere made squalid by wooden ladders, by flimsy gangways and cat-walks. And the squalor is for squalor's sake, since all these rickety roads through space are manifestly without destination. Below them, on the floor, stand great machines incapable of doing anything in particular, and from the arches overhead hang ropes that carry nothing except a sickening suggestion of torture. Some of the Prisons are lighted only by narrow windows. Others are half open to the sky, with hints of yet other vaults and walls in the distance. But even where the enclosure is more or less complete, Piranesi always contrives to give the impression that this colossal pointlessness goes on indefinitely, and is co-extensive with the universe. Engaged in no recognizable activity, paying no attention to one another, a few small, faceless figures haunt the shadows. Their insignificant presence merely emphasizes the fact that there is nobody at home.”
Cool. Talk about a "...Huge Ruined Pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses...".  Piranesi designed the ultimate Megadungeon hundreds of years before D&D was even a glimmer in the eye of some guy in Wisconsin.  Huxley's paragraph above could be the blurb on the back of a Megadungeon box-set and it'd sell like hot-cakes.  Just take a look at some more samples of Piranesi's mind-blowing art:


and...


and...


Incredible stuff.  Amazing stuff.  And Piranesi drew all of these by hand. By hand. The sheer amount of detail that he managed to squeeze into each of these images is simply astounding, and humbling. Mapping Piranesi Carceri/Prisons would be an incredible project.  There probably aren't enough Geomorphs in the world to do it justice.  Yet.
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