…this weekend, the first “true” serial, The Adventures of Kathlyn, debuted at the theatres. By “true” serial, I mean one with cliffhangers, the Continued Next Week function that really defines serials. But the cliff hanger ending, though it seems the logical and obvious approach, didn’t really get set in stone for another year or two. Many of the early “serials” contained a single character in a continuing story, but just ended at a convenient place as in What Happened to Mary?, considered the first American serial. The Hazards of Helen, which ran for 119 chapters starting the year after The Adventures of Kathlyn, are just individual shorts featuring the same main character, which is usually considered a ‘series.’ And honestly, it’s just possible that the most famous serial of all time, The Perils of Pauline (1914), didn’t use cliff hangers for every episode.
The term has become even looser in recent years, as fans seem bent on expanding the number of serials. I consider Beatrice Fairfax a series, as it is twelve related but otherwise individualepisodes, but many people today count it as a serial, I’m assuming because there were 12 episodes. At the same time, I consider the 1913 Fantômas films, as well as Les Vampires (1914) and Judex (19116) serials, even though the European idea of a serial is really more like, say Star Wars than The Adventures of Capt. Marvel: a series of longer films –sometimes over an hour–that tell a single story, but minus cliff-hangers.
Fantômas could in fact be the poster child for this general vagueness about what constitutes a true serial. There are five discrete films within the series, all roughly an hour in length. The second of the five, however, does end with a true cliff-hanger, while the other four resolve like a TV episode. But within each of the five films, there are further subdivisions, from 3 to 5, each with titles that could indicate chapters. But….no cliff hangers.
And then today, we have the Super Serial format, seen on TV in series like Lost and 24. The series themselves are serials, meaning that, for instance, 24 can be seen as an eight episode Super Serial, each chapter of which is a 24 chapter serial in itself.
We won’t resolve this here. But let’s at list tip our hats to the people who did start it all. (In film anyway. Newspaper and magazine serials…well, another time, perhaps.)
There are Cosmic Forces that intervene in our lives, for their own purposes and to their own schedule.
A young man on Earth, with the dreams of youth, plans to travel, drink deeply of experience. His life stretches out before, waiting to unfold, beckoning him onward.
Obstacles arise, as they always do, these in the guise of other people’s wants and desires. Loving the world and all the richness it has to offer, the young man encourages them to follow their dreams, wishes them god-speed, often even makes it possible for them to proceed. But in their wake, Chaos stirs. The young man could leave it behind, set off on his own path, but there is no one to encourage or support him, so he is left to his own devices. Surely he knows that he is not indispensable, that there are others who can constrain the Chaos. But where are they? Will they? And what if they don’t?
At first he stays, believing that once the crisis has passed, then he can go . But each time he approaches the boundary of the town he lives in, Chaos reasserts itself, larger, stronger, threatening to engulf ever more people. More friends leave to chart their own destinies, either oblivious to the Chaos or perhaps driven by it. The young man sees them on their way, yet grimly stays, as Chaos settles in permanently, centered in the figure of a grim old invalid.
Are the Cosmic Forces guiding these events? Are they indifferent? It’s mysterious, unclear
The battle is fought with human souls, and the now not-so-young man, if not exactly triumphant, is holding his own. As he matures, he learns to pace himself. He finds some consolation in other interests, family, business. There is some laughter, some singing. His dreams are still present, but they are now middle-aged, flabby from lack of exercise. And when on occasion they flare up, rebel, try to assert themselves, Chaos floods forth to meet them. Though they don’t know it, the dreams are defeated the minute the fight is joined, as their goals change from escape to defense. Chaos calls the tune.
Then the crisis comes. Unintentionally betrayed, the hero realizes he has lived a delusion, that he has been trapped all along. His forces spent, Chaos overwhelms him, ready to destroy the little bit of life he has managed to construct for himself in the midst of the long, hard fight. He cracks. Seized with madness, he abandons the fight at last. There is one last chance to escape…from the top of a bridge. into the icy water below.
But it’s too late. The Cosmic Forces are invested in his complete and utter destruction, and suicide is not what they have in mind. They act. They drive him further into madness, convincing him that his long sacrifice has been the right thing, the good thing, that he should continue, that he must continue.
As the hero abandons all hope and reason, he has a vision: all the people who escaped, who lived their lives, developed their careers, achieved their dreams, return in a single instant to rescue him…if he’ll stay. He loses sight of the fact that the battle has long since been lost. The dreams of his youth are shattered and driven away forever. Like Salieri in Amadeus, he will live out his life in a new dream, one forced on him. Most frightening of all, he will learn to like it.
The name of the movie?
It’s a Wondereful Life.
This is the last page for 2013, as I am going to go dark for two weeks and try and catch up on lots of stuff, including getting ahead on pages again. And I have to polish up those articles and reviews that I have in various stages of completion. I’ll be back the second week of January, and we’ll be heading into the climax of Book 5. It’ll still be 30 more pages or so, but the action is all starting to come together.
Happy Holidays to all.
This is the second week in a row when I have inadvertently put the new page up on Thursday instead of Friday, and the third week in a row I have forgotten to write my Friday post beforehand. I assume this is indicative of my current general chaos, where in I really don’t know which way is up, or whether I am coming or going. I do know that I haven’t finished next Friday’s page yet; I’m usually at least three or four weeks ahead.
With that in mind, I am going to skip putting up a new page the week of Christmas, though I may find some sort of surprised for you all. That will give me enough time to get a page or two ahead. Believe it or not, though this current split sequence will end soon, there is yet a lot more story to be told before Book 5 wraps up. That’s when I’ll take a longer beak to prep the big final climactic book of the series.
My newest interest (like I needed more) is European equivalents of dime novels and pulps. I’ll write up some more about it one of these days, but suffice to say, there are a lot of really cool series out there that were completely unknown to me. Below is the only copy I’ve been able to obtain of 1908 French series, l’Guerre infernale, about a future war (mid-1930s) with England and Germany. Aside from it’s prescience, it’s also the Star Wars of its day, with death rays and flying ships. I’ll post some of the interior illos soon. They are terrific.
I have some new reviews and blog posts scheduled for after the first of the year, as I liked it when I was able to present obscure material here on a regular basis. I just don’t have the time anymore. If any of you have a topic that is at least marginally related to fantastic fiction and want to do a guest blog, please get in touch.
Have a good weekend.
(The following document was provided by the great Medival scholar known only to us as Dumb Post. While it may sound a bit derogatory as English, it is actually a transcription of a now lost language that only appears to mimic English. Keep in mind that while this appendix is steeped in scholarly research and minute investigation of ancient sources, it may yet contain information that leads down that path we all fear. Read with care, ready to turn your mind to thoughts more safe and secure should you find yourself drawn into places one is better off avoiding. And yet…and yet…the lure of knowledge is so……strong….)
“Canst thou draw out leviathan with a fish-hook? or press down his tongue with a cord?
Canst thou put a ring into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a hook?
Will he make many supplications unto thee? or will he speak soft words unto thee?
Will he make a covenant with thee, that thou shouldest take him for a servant for ever?”
It is with some trepidation that one embarks into fields of which ones knowledge is even more superficial (unlikely as it may seem) than that of the Latin West: due both to one’s personal obligations to certain subjects of that matter, & recollection of Lalla Qafia, so aptly described by one of that saintly Jewish Lady`s own venerators, as “….A black stone. You can slaughter even a hundred cows near it and not a drop of blood will leak from the stone: it drinks all the blood”.
(Of course, being a fellow mortal, rather than a deity, she will not consume her equals; even so).
One of the blessings of the Internet is swift exchange of views; more than usually, one would encourage readers of this text to be free with their commentary & correction: why, one may even credit any worthwhile words, publicly!
R. Benjamin of Tudela`s Sefer ha-Masa`ot is a key text to the world of Sephardism in medieval times, one transcending both that of the Christian & the Moslem, & relatively easy to grasp by us post-medivals, considering it’s genre. Finally, Mr. Issac Bashevis Singer`s “The Dead Fiddler”, though taking place in a corner of Israel somewhat alien to our purposes, is still the best treatment of Lovecraftian themes within its holy confines one has yet encountered.
Even the place from which the sephardi name first originated is not, today at least, locatable on a map; the closest they got to a cultural center was the Exilarch of Babylon; theirs was a borderlands existence, tottering on the edge of other nations & faiths. Yet this very implacability made Judezmo scribes vital to the transference of knowledge from the Arab world to that of the Latins. Their sole sovereignty was that of the Word: it may well have been the subgroup of Sephardism that we nominate the Italkim, that embellished the globe with such wondrous practical jokes as “The Letter of Prester John”. What is more, the Jewish mystics were willing to operate with the concept of multiple realities (even if “merely” as symbolic stages of creation), in contradistinction to Aristotelian Scholastics busy building the Earthly Jerusalem out of stained glass & gunpowder. Judezmo, much as the Latins, would have doubted that the Kitab Al Azif’s supernumerary “dragon planet” be proper astronomy; but their kabbalistic neoplatonists had the option of reading it as “Qliphoth”, or “Yuggoth”.
They were the true “medival metaphysicians”.
Jewish tomes have become foundational to a variety of non – hebraic cultures, a source of some cultural tension; much as how the “Dreamlands” myth-cycle became an object of modern scholarly study before that of Angells “Cthulhu Mythos”, or, for that matter, the distortion of both by the occult mainstream. The lands of Dream have been associated with those of Jewery since the time of Joseph ben Israel, with a special focus on contacting sages that have passed away from this world, but still persist Beyond.
What, then, was their relationship to that most infamous Book of the Dead, the Necronomicon
-Grünbaum, “Sprach-und Sagenkunde,” p. 72, Berlin, 1901
One will not speak of the Nephilim. 
But the Ammonite “Zamzum- mim”, the Buzzers, the dreaming and gigantic dead, are not friends of silence. Medival meta- physicians & philopseudological orientalists may compare with such clairaudient wilderness oracles as Abdul Alhazred’s howling desert Djinni (explained as the sound of nocturnal insects), & the “Winged Ones” of Eli Davenport`s monograph on Vermont wilderness folklore (ditto); but what makes the Buzzers of special interest is that they in this particular instance are confounded with undead Old Ones; a somewhat unusual hybrid – the only other examples that come to mind being the shade of Faunus, venerated as the sylvan echo Fatuus, at least as he is described in the Aeneid (though only resounding in dreams); & the 20-century custom of randomly recording the supposed voices of dead souls, EVP.
Neither of these conflations are likely to have influenced a pre-electronic man of Greek letters such as Theodorus Philetas.
It does start to seem quite likely, however, especially considering their role as intermediaries between Christianity & Islam, & the otherwise isolationist stance held by the Byzantines, that he either had Jewish slave-scribe assistants, or even was of Judaeic background himself; & that Old Testament traditions of these Buzzers is the origin of the very title “Necronomicon”, rather than a more cautiously orthodox translation from the Arabic, such as “Empty Echo of the Infidels”, or “Barbarian Buzzings”. We Medival Metaphysicians may have to brave the genizoth.
-Verse 14, Book V, of the Pirqe Aboth, Charles Taylor translation.
But was Pope Gregory IX, then, justified in his condemnation of the Talmud?
Sir Hansen Poplan would go further; proclaiming that Aten, the sun-God, be an avatar of Necronomic Yog-Sothoth Itself, & that Abba Moshe had released The Omnipresent One from under a “seal” of sorts, on the mountain of Sin, the moon-deity.
One cannot help wondering what the blood-soaked idolators of Yag-Shutath, alongside Al-Azrad, not to mention Al-Khadhulu, would have made of being counted amongst the followers of He who forbade murder & polytheism.
In the bold tradition of the early 20th century, Sir Hansen did not see fit to quote any sources for his logic-defying postulates; though the influence of Dr. Freud’s more “advanced” theories, as well as those of Gottfried Christian Voigt & Etienne-Laurent de Marigny is evident in his writings; at least de Marigny could partake in Sir Hansens excuse, shell-shock.
Predictably, there is no known example of an Hebrew or Aramaic “Book considering (or classifying) the dead”, & the Spanish Necronomicon is decidedly post-sephardic. But one needs not restrict oneself to merely negative evidence.
“I shall look upon man no more among the inhabitants of Chadhel”
-Isiah XXXVIII:11, Sadowsky´s version
“Only by the looped cross, by the Vach-Viraj incantation, and by the Tikkoun elixir may he be driven back to the nighted caverns of hidden foulness where he dwelleth.”
-Kester Necronomicon, Leigh translation.
Tikkoun is the French transliteration of the Hebrew תיקון, customarily spelt “Tikkun” in the English. Our source for this, Michael Leigh, is somewhat skew-whiff; as can be told from his Montague Summers-like slander of Abigail Prinn, whom any reasonable gentleman must needs assume was a martyr to blackest ignorance. However, he at least invested large amounts of his own money in the piling up of information for posterity, which is more than can be said of Henri-Laurent “de Marigny”, self-proclaimed “son”, “re-incarnation”, or “time-travelling robot clone” of the elder de Marigny, depending on the severity of his delirium tremens. According, then, to the voluble Henri, the Tikkoun Elixir is simply holy water; a view politely ignored by actual professionals in the field, who tend towards the more practical view that it be muriatic acid.
Both the name & the elixir are of too developed metaphysical & chemical origins to have been in the Kitab Al Azif, especially now that the attribution to Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān of inventing the chemical component has been judged spurious. Indeed, that specific factor would make Jewish involvement in Olaus Wormius translation a distinct possibility, were it not for the difficulty of identifying ancient chemistry, & the acids Byzantine associations.
As for “tikkun”, Hebraists commonly use the phrase “tikkun olam” “the cleansing of a World”; in Zoharic commentary, it is what will be done to “The Kings of Edom” when the Third Temple  be rebuilt. As unto the Buzzers, the Edomites were a pre-Judaeic people with a quite flexible sense of national loyalty; used by sephardi for prefiguring the Roman & Byzantine Empires. The Edomite “monarchs”, on the other hand, were believed to be the blasphemous remains of destroyed universes, who wished this current Creation ill. The Sephardic attitude to the Necronomicon “mythos” thus seems entirely clear: the ilk of Chadhel are a foulness beyond reality itself, to be disinfected, by means most severe.
Theodores Philates Geonim translators would, indeed, have had to been slaves.
As for the Dreamland mythos direct connection to Jewish mysticism, I must admit to have found merely a single source, & a queer one, at that.
There have been some eyebrows raised at de Vercheres extensive studies of The Grimoire of Golden Dreams, due to its obvious status as a hoax, one typical of the Bibliothèque bleue period; however, he has also received some degree of recognition, even from notables such as Dornly, for his throwing light on otherwise extinct sources thereby. The very form of the Manuscript, itself, is redolent of age. Its layout & illumination (enriched by amounts of gold leaf worthy of the Dark Ages, but, queerly enough, applied to remarkably poor quality parchment, even paper by its latter half) depend on 13-century techniques otherwise thought to have been lost by the time of its 18-century unearthing; its language, a mix of technically precise Scholastic Latin & medival French vulgarities.
It claims to be the “Record & Justification” of a certain “Charles the Sorcerer” (a figure otherwise notorious in the folklore of Normandy, Belgium & Denmark; indeed, Dostmann considers him to be the origin of the Scandinavian term “Trold-Karl”); who, after achieving nothing less than the Philosophers Stone, source of wealth & youth eternal, then spent 600 years of his bodily life hidden away in a secret room under a provincial French fortress. He gives us III reasons for this exceptional lifestyle: primus, peaceful prayer for the perfection of his soul; secundus, a sworn oath of revenge, to murder all male heirs of the noble lineage holding the fortress in fief, at the age of 32; & tertius, entertaining drug-fired visions “beyond even Sir Scipio”.
Visions that sprang from the ingestion of Vinum Sabbati, a recipe The Sorcerer admits, after considerable self-justifying digressions, that he found within the forbidden tome “In Praise of The Undead”.
The first thing to be noticed was that his seeing-glasses had transformed into a chaplet of silvered laurel. (Upon his awakening, he would first be perturbed by the obvious fact that the world he had been in was flat: even more, that he had not been perturbed by this fact whilst there.)
The second, fear and flight from the river Sabbatyon, for in that hour the Sabbath had ended.
The first human inhabitants of that flat world he found were the Lost Tribes of Israel; namely, the tribe of Dan, adorned with Jacinth; the tribe of Zebulun, crowned with amethyst; the tribe of Asher, armoured in chalcedony; and the tribe of Naphtali, glorified by sapphires. But they were not the first sentients; for Nargis-Hei, Emperor of Sarnath, prized the nose-less Sons of Ghuz, the Kofar-al-Turak, with raw unclean flesh to relieve the IV Tribes by the river Sabbatyon, during the sabbath; they, though idolaters of the west wind, being nevertheless very friendly towards the Israelites. That this was less than fortunate for intruders from the Waking World did not, in the nature of things, disturb the dreams of Nargis-Hei, Emperor of Sarnath.
The Sorcerers vociferous prayers to his patron saint, St. Ibidus, did not go unheard; at least not by the Jewish warrior-maid guard relief. They brought him before another Dreamer of the Waking World, Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia, who had risen to high position by application of the mysteries of the Book of Creation. Abulafia was initially somewhat bemused at this sulpherous mode of adventure into The Lands of Dream, but expressed some sympathy upon hearing that it had been advised by what he called the “Qliphothim”, malicious but able ghost-liars. He gently suggested that Charles instead embrace truth, in particular, the truths of the Sephiroth, considering their evident veracity; though his regard for same also obliged him to point out that this would prevent The Sorcerers return, due to sabbaterianism. The latter, alongside his gratitude to St. Ibidus, & certain Judaic initiatory surgical requirements, gave the Frenchman reason to pause; even though he had to agree that the holiday quiet of the cataclysmic river Sabbatyon, not to mention Abulafias’ actualization of a (circumcised) bullock out of thin air, was most convincing. He had a week of theological dispute; coming close to panic when he found himself unable to contemplate, let alone discuss, The Hypostatic Union. Abulafia attempted to console him, explaining that he, himself, had parallel metaphysical limitations as regarded the transcendent aspects of Judaism, in the Lands of Dream; & that they could be in some measure overcome through mystic symbolism & personification. The self-proclaimed IV Tribes, he revealed, where actually semi-composed of refugees from, in the case of the Danites, the fall of Queen Judith; The Naphtali, the fall of the Priest-Queen Lalla Dihya.& thus, could persist in a tradition of saintly veneration.
It would be tasteless to name the meat with which the desperate Sorcerer, to escape what he held to be a vision of Limbo, bribed the pagan Sons of Ghuz at the following sabbath. His return to consciousness gave little rest; he complained of having become “a foolish follower of Dame Habonde”.
A week later, he was bodily stolen away to the Lands of Dream by a “Griffin”. 
Some effort was then made by the Jewery of Dreams, to explain the nature of their world. Charles found the theory of The Earthly Paradise not convincing, in this case; if anything, that ought to be Kadath-in-Leng . He was slightly more inclined to the idea that, whilst the Creator had used Prose when Speaking waking Earth into existence, He had waxed Poetic in dreams.
Finally, the Tribes were summoned out of the Tanarian Hills, to raid the Vaults of Zin, for wine to celebrate the thousandth year of the destroying of Ib. What befell The Daughters of Deborah & the Sons of Ghuz, Charles, at least, did not claim to know; but it is written in the grey scrolls of Teloth that the only things now alive in Zin are the nose-less, brain-less cannibal Ghasts.
Fortunately so; when The Sorcerer was left behind, with other non-combatants, in the timeless Naraxa river valley, he also left the subject-matter of this appendix; thus liberating my readers from the details of how he there found the philosophers stone, source of unlimited youth & gold, lies both pedantically technical & obscene. Mermaids, indeed! Not to mention the several centuries worth of further hallucinatory exploration. It is best to, as did R. Benjamin, simply identify Zin with China; The Grimoire of Golden Dreams has nothing more to say about Jews.
-Dedicated to the Memory of Avram, who taught me to place a stone on a Jewish grave with my left hand.
de Vercheres, Leon: sub-librarian of Paris U. asked to find Ghoulish section of Necronomicon, that had otherwise been deleted with “curious uniformity” from Harvard & Miskatonic U. versions. Goes mad, attempts burning of N, incarcerated. -From Nov 18, 1930 AD H.P. Lovecraft letter to Clark Ashton Smith.
 “By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them.”
-Spanish Necronomicon, Armitage translation.
 The stone sarcophagus of king Og is of some interest in this context: one hopes it not be to ungentlemanly to draws parallels to Moroccan Lalla Qafia, mentioned in my apology, above, as well as one’s own homeland’s, Cornwall’s, gigantic traditions; both areas have been influenced by the Phoenicians. One of the more interesting sources on ancient oriental mineral worship is Abu-al-Mundhir Hisham ibn-Muhammad ibn-al-Sa’ib ibn-Bishr al-Kalbi`s “The Book of Idols”, which, both as regards subject matter, obscurity, & period, is disturbingly close to the Kitab Al Azif.
That the legends of titanic beings be rationalized by extant cyclopean statuary & gigantotomy has been examined with Germanic thoroughness by von Juntz; but what is one, then, to make of Professor Webb’s minuscule “Tulu” figurine?
 Professor Sadowsky even states that medival Jews identified “Chdl” (as it is rightly transliterated from the Hebrew) with Hell, presumably due to influence from the Augustinian idea of evil merely being the absence of Good. Cthulhus, or Tulus, with which Sadowsky himself identifies Chdl, status as a hibernating or “undead” entity would make such embarrassingly negative categorization blessedly appropriate, until the Stars Be Made Right anyway.
Though slightly at a remove from ones topic, it was, notably, the Medival askenazi, “Rashi”, who was the first to call that perfidious enemy of all Jewery, Dagon, a fish. It would be at an ever greater remove to deal with Hasidic aquatic metempsychosical lore.
Modern-day Edomites of a sensitive disposition should keep in mind that, according to ones personal researches, the term is no longer of common usage amongst the Sephardim; in spite of the horrors & betrayals of latter centuries.
 Our only other record of this “De laudibus indefunctorum” is in the dubious X book of Virgilius Maro Grammaticus “Epitomae”. K. Simlak has considered Virgilius possible Jewish origins in his 1988 essay “The third Virgil: A Jewish satirist in the Dark Ages?”: that aside, this amusing literary practical joker flourished before the Byzantine Necronomicon, but “De laudibus indefunctorum” may have been used afterwards as an alternate, safer title, amongst initiates; just as its reputed author, “Galbungus”, one of Virgilius many outlandish pseudo-authorities, may have suffered the sad fate of becoming a cover name for the Mad Arab.
 Newfangled theory & technology, such as the rotundity of our Earth, or spectacles, would be out of place in a realm evidently inspired by the Old Testament. One also recalls the phobia of fairies against such, for them, novelties as iron or Catholicism.
 Known from R. Benjamin of Tudela. Modern commentators have identified them with the Ghuze tribe of the Seldjuk hordes, but admit to some wonderment at why R. Benjamin should brand them Zephyrrites, as the Ghuzes were good Ishmaelites.
 “And when this evil wind blows which drives them into the Sea of Nikpa, they wrap themselves up in the skins, which they make waterproof, and, armed with knives, plunge into the sea. A great bird called the griffin spies them out, and in the belief that the sailor is an animal, the griffin seizes hold of him, brings him to dry land, and puts him down on a mountain or in a hollow in order to devour him. The man then quickly thrusts at the bird with a knife and slays him. Then the man issues forth from the skin and walks till he comes to an inhabited place. And in this manner many a man escapes.”
Yet another possible borrowing from R. Benjamin, or from Necronomical concepts such as “Night-gaunts” or “Shantak-birds”.
A slightly less obvious origin is the Tibethan plateau-home of King Gesar
And da winnah is….Moe Lane, for his story, “The Thirsty Tree.” Moe, email your address to me and I’ll send you your brand spanking new copy of S. T. Joshi’s first novel, Assaults of Chaos. And, if you want to finish the story and submit it, I might just run it here on the site.
It’s finals week at school, and all the graduating seniors are also crunching to get their portfolio books and reels ready, which means lots of one on one time. It’s really one of my favorite parts of the year, but time consuming and draining.
Next week we’ll have a guest blog by an eminent Medieval scholar about a subject so arcane and esoteric that I’m not sure I even understand it. If that isn’t evidence of brilliance, then call me a shoggoth. Plus, you do realize that all the great Medieval alchemists, sorcerers and wizards wrote their secrets in abstruse texts in order to hide the truth from the various punitive bodies like the Inquisition. Get your Little Orphan Annie decoder rings out and see if you can be the first to suss out the deeper secrets contained in this excellent and provocative essay.
Have a good weekend.
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone here in the U.S. I almost didn’t put a page up today, but then remembered that at least some people in the world don’t celebrate all the American holidays. Go figure.
Ihaven’t forgotten the story contest, and I’ll announce the winner next week. Since all the votes are in the comments, I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself.
Last week was an odd…possibly disturbing…week. Although it wasn’t a holiday (at least not here) readership was down by over 50%. I have good days and bad days, and Fridays swing a little bit but within a pretty constant range. I don’t know if I missed some world shattering event, or whether some readers aren’t enjoying the little excursion into black and white and splotchy color. It’s not forever, as I’ve said. This is a planned sequence, to lead into the rest of the story.
I understand that doesn’t mean it’s to everybody’s taste. But I think in a few more weeks, when things have shaken out a bit, everyone will ultimately be satisfied. If not, oh well. Too late now.
I have some neat blog posts scheduled for after the first of the year. Like the comic, it’s better if I get a little ahead on them. Just know we’ll be hanging out with, among others, Semi Dual, Andrew Latter,Simon Iff and at least three different versions of Spring-Heeled Jack
Hvae a good weekend.
Varney the Vampyre, or the Feast of Blood is one of the most famous penny dreadfuls, written in the mid 1840s, by either John Malcolm Rhymer or Thomas Prescot Prest. Given that it runs 876 pages in its original two-columned form, I don’t see why both men couldn’t be credited. After all, spinning out eight page weekly parts isn’t as easy as it might sound, and two authors, especially two who might not get together all that often, would account for some of the wild inconsistencies in the story. For those of you brave enough to venture into Victorian popular fiction, the text is available here at Project Gutenberg.
The early penny dreadfuls are really hard to find anymore, and you can count on triple the difficulty if you go after the well known titles, like Sweeney Todd, Spring-Heeled Jack, The Wild Boys of London, or Varney. These serials ran from 40 to over 200 issues, so even if you find one, building a run is pretty nigh impossible. The stories themselves aren’t hard to find. A number of the print on demand folks offer copies at outrageously exorbitant prices, but go to Project Gutenberg or do a Google search and you can download them for free (which is what the print on demand people are doing.)
However, the downloads are usually just the text, and a mainstay of all this kind of fiction is the artwork that accompanies the story. So below, for your viewing pleasure, is all the available artwork from Varney the Vampyre. Most of the illustrations are unfortunately mundane, but there are a few goodies in here; It’s the totality that has the impact. As is all too often the case, the illustrator(s) is unknown.
A quick word about penny dreadfuls for those of you who aren’t familiar with the format. The stories were issued weekly for a penny (duh!) but with the intention that once one had all the parts (and even the authors didn’t know how many issues there would be; they would keep spinning the tale as long as it sold, then end it quickly), the entire group would be bound up into a book. Thus, they don’t have “covers.” Each part cuts off exactly at the end of eight pages, even if it’s in the middle of the sentence. The next part picks up that sentence where it left off, AND has an illustration on the first page. Once bound together, you had an illustrated novel. Unfortunately, the audience these books were aimed at were not the kind who would buy all issues, keep them neat and pay for the binding. Most were bought and shared by whole neighborhoods of boys. Few survived the manhandling, and fewer still were ever bound together. ‘Penny dreadful’ has become a kind of catch all term for any English serial fiction, just as ‘dime novel’ and ‘pulp’ are misused in this country. It’s convenient, but from what I’ve read, the true penny dreadfuls were gone by the late 19th century. But call ‘em as you see ‘em. They’re still great.
Last weekend I went to OAFcon. OAF (The Oklahoma Alliance of Fandom) is a club started in 1967, in a garage in Edmond. I was lucky enough to be one of those first thirteen guys. And here we are, 46 years later, still meeting, still collecting and still speaking to one another. It’s always great to get together,a nd this time I even made a couple of new friends, guys I’d known from Facebook but never met in person. Scott Sackett and ellis Goodson had tables in artist’s alley and seem to be remarkably fine fellows. Hope to spend more time with them soon, and maybe even run some art by them (hint hint.)
Received a fascinating (at least to me) new book this week, The Continental Dime Novel by Rimmer Sterk and Jim Conkright, and it features just exactly what the title indicates: dime novels in Europe, from the turn of the century to World War 2. I’ll give a more detailed report soon, but I am still agog at the cover reproductions. They could be bigger and better, but there are so many of them it’s hard to really complain. I’ll scan some of the more interesting science fiction and adventure ones and post them. The book is available only through print-on-demand, so it will likely one day be a quite rare book. Just saying.
That’s also a very broad hint at a treat I’ll have for you this next Wednesday, something I don’t think you will find anywhere else on the web or even in book form. All I’ll add is that vampire fans should alert their friends.
Now, the contest. You folks aren’t much for contests, are you? At least this time I got more than two entries, but it will be the last approach to contests for this fella. Still occasionally I like to give stuff away. Have to think of a new gimmick.
At any rate, for your consideration, here are the four entries, all of which purport to be the title and first paragraph of a story by Win Battler. You tell me which one you think is the real deal, and a copy of The Assaults of Chaos, by S. T. Joshi will go to the person who sent in the lost classic.
By Orwin Battler
“The only kind of firearm worth a dime is a rifle” Colt Mars declared. “Six – shooters are for saloon brawls- and I am a teetotaller”.
“There is a fine far lookout for shooting now, indeed”, said Tom Kristensen, whilst his steel-blue eyes swept the dank, grey horizons of a Danish swamp. “But what of the Rimtaage, the Ice-Mist? You will want a nip of my jaegermeister, then”.
“Even you vikings would most rather drink bog than that kraut firewater” Colt laughed.
“The vikings were those who fled the North” Tom grumbled.
“Some must have come back home. Heard you fish up old Roman weapons around these parts”
“And Romanish jewelry, pictured bronze drinking cups, coins of red gold. All strange to this land, all thrown into the swamp. Our Moselig, the Danish swamp-mummies, are all the stranger thralls, won in war, given up to our hungering gods, and to the sour black cold waters.”
“Pickled them like a herring” chuckled Colt “Leastways they were strung up first. Would not take kindly to drowning in any water that would shrivel and darken a body so, myself”
Abruptly, Tom signalled for silence. There was something bulky and black splashing in their direction, spreading the now slowly rising icy bog mists.
It was antlered.
Colt readied his hunting rifle. At times, moose ford the narrow seas between Norway and Denmark.
Then, he saw that the great black branching thing walked on two…..
Beneath the Book of Law
By Win Battler
Rochester was a level-headed man, but stubborn when his reputation was on the line. Such was the case, or at least he felt it so, the day he moved to the city. Having just situated himself in his new apartment, he was organizing his possessions when a police officer, accompanied by a neighbor, came calling at his door. The officer delivered the neighbor’s complaint: namely, that Rochester was illegally displaying his family crest at the entrance rather than the national crest. Rochester’s outraged protest was inevitable; he had come to this city to pursue his career, only after long hesitation giving up his ancestral estate. He did not want also to give up his name. He asked pointedly what local ordinance would take away a man’s heritage. He admitted that in this quarter he had seen no sign of family or local crests, but knew that in other parts of the city they were displayed freely.
The officer’s hesitant reply was interrupted by the offended neighbor. “Don’t expect such arguments to work in this city. Nobody knows what laws set originated our customs, but we do know what’s proper. And on this street it is improper to display any but the national crest.”
Incredulously, Rochester asked the police officer whether he knew his own city’s laws, but the neighbor was right. “No one digs up the laws. Inevitable in a city this old; why, some laws from the Aboriginals still have legal force. That’s part of the City Charter, from over a thousand years ago.” The officer was indignant now, not used to this being challenged.
“Well then, I’ll have to learn them myself,” Rochester pronounced. “Because until I know you’ve the legal right to make me, I am not removing my family crest from my doorway.” Those who knew Rochester, had any been nearby, would have known from his tone of voice that he would not be backing down. His neighbor simply chuckled.
“Learn the laws he says! I’ll have you know, the last person who tried to learn our laws went insane. That ancient gibberish hasn’t been decoded by our best scholars. The only ones who claim to understand it are mystics and swindlers!”
The Thirsty Tree
by Win Battler
You can get a bad tree, like you would a bad man or a bad dog. And I don’t mean a tree where the sap’s gone or the inside’s rotted out or it’s got the angriest bees around. I mean a bad tree. You need a place where evil knows to go to do what it does. And where it doesn’t go away, afterward – because it likes the place it found, and wants to stay. You have that happen enough… you have that place fill up with creatures killing for fun, or men, or something between the two… then when the roots go into that soil then it’s like they’re drinking poison. Most trees would just die from that. But some get bad, instead.
Menhir of the Damned
by Win Battler
The heat was oppressive. St. John stumbled on through the thick underbrush and clouds of niggling insects, a little ahead of the middle of the line of explorers. To his back was a handful of botanists and entomologists ill at home in the sultry jungle, to his front the boys hacking away at the tangled vegetation, the pair of towering Natives acting as the expedition’s guides, and the stout bear-like frame of Douglas Valen. As the gaunt ashen skinned Natives went on gibbering to each other in their guttural half-unpronounceable language, Valen struggled through the underbrush of the incline and complained to St. John about their position, a wild look in his eyes from the frustration and exhaustion and heat of the past few days.
“….I mean, this all comes from old book of hoodoo and superstitious nonsense, right? This von Sunts or van Hunts or whatever the Devil his name is wasn’t credible, was he?” St. John wiped his brow and took a sip from his canteen. “That’s actually debatable. The fellow wrote some crazy things, like how he supposedly visited Hell; but the main bulk of it was actually pretty accurate. The beliefs of all those cults he joined, and such. Besides, it’s not just because of the claims of some old Mystic that we’re out here. There’s also the story of that Longfellow boy.” Valen snarled back at St. John. “Oh, come on! Some sixteen year old kid gets lost in the wilderness and found weeks later, half mad from hunger and fever and telling tall tales? God’s Blood, Sinjin!”
I haven’t forgotten about the story writing contest. This is your last chance to send in a title and the first paragraph of a Lovecraftian story that Win might have written. First prize is a brand new copy of S. T. Joshi’s first novel, The Assaults of Chaos, wherein HPL teams up with Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood and others to fight…well, you know. I will put the entries up next week, and I’m going to let you folks vote.So there.
Short of being able to go back in time and live during the pulp era, we are in the Golden Age of the Pulps right now. No matter what your taste (unless it be westerns or romance stories, in which case you’re not likely to be reading this blog anyway), there is some small press out there re-issuing classic, often rare collections of stories. Prices on the original pulps have been climbing for some time now, and because of their paper, many copies in circulation are slowly flaking their way into oblivion. Early issues of the best magazines, like Adventure and Blue Book (and by early, I’m talking the 1910s) are almost impossible to find in any condition, and heaven forbid if you get caught up in one of the serial magazines like Argosy. I have so many incomplete serials I want to read that I don’t even like to bring the subject up. Argosy is reasonably priced for the most part, but inevitably, the final chapter of the serial you are reading will be in an issue that debuts a Burroughs story, or a Peter the Brazen cover.
But print on demand has been a blessing to all of us who love pulp and obscure fiction. Some of the books offered are definitely no frills editions, with no cover art and little proof reading of the OCR used to extract the text. But others are really handsome affairs, and, given the price and difficulty of obtaining some pulps, eminently afforadable.
I’m only relying on my memory for chronology, but it seems like the first two publishers of this material were Adventure House and Girasol Collectibles. Adventure House’s High Adventure is a smaller format, and alternates between full issue reprints of Operator 5 or Wu Fang and others, and selected stories of a particular character or author. Girasol started with high quality replicas of The Spider. They’ve added other Popular Publication titles, and some of the Spicys to their line-up, but the Spider books are still their bread and butter from the looks of it.
Sanctum Press has done the same thing for the Street & Smith titles. Their The Shadow and Doc Savage books reprint two stories in each handsome trade paperback, plus the original covers. Slowly, the rest of the S&S books are coming on board; thus far we have The Whisperer and Nick Carter. I’m holding my breath for Pete Rice and The Skipper.
Taking a far more general approach, Age of Aces Press specializes in aviation fiction. Of greater personal interest, Black Dog Press is issuing chronological anthologies of the best stories from Adventure magazine, which had some of the most consistent writing quality in the whole genre. Murania Press, in addition to handling the semi-prozine, Blood ‘n’ Thunder, is publishing obscure sf and adventure novels that really don’t fit in with any master genre. This is a real blessing, as so many great stories have been overlooked through the years because they were too off-beat for any anthology theme.
Without doubt, though, my two favorites are Altus Press and Black Coat Press. Altus is issuing complete collections, often in multiple volumes, of rare and downright obscure pulp characters in chronological order. The first books of Peter the Brazen and Singapore Sammy supply some very elusive stories. And where else are you going to find the adventures of Jim Anthony, the most interesting of the Doc Savage wanna-bes? The Cardigan stories, of which there are many, have already filled three books, and Secret Agent X more than that. I’d never even heard of Jogar…and I’ll leave you to find out about him for yourself at their website. In addition, Altus is publishing the new series of Doc Savage novels, of which more in a moment.
Black Coat Press has been around for quite awhile, and is the French version of Altus, though as far as I know they are unrelated. Black Coat reissues collections of French pulp heroes and science fiction that are obscure in France, and almost totally unknown in this country. How many stories of the Nyctalope have you read? Sar Dubnotal? The Black Coats? Yeah, didn’t think so. The bulk of their catalogue consists of stand-alone stories, which include a couple of Doc Savage predecessors, mad scientists, interplanetary adventure, and horror. They also produce quite a bit of new fiction. Their Shadowmen series is one of those Wold-Newton things where all the characters live in the same world. All new stories by a variety of authors have filled seven volumes and more or planned. But there are also stand alone continuations of Fantômas that I find far more interesting.
Shadowmen could be classified among the new pulp movement. If you’re not up on that, there ae a large number of fans adding to the canons of Secret Agent X, Capt. Hazzard and others. By fans I don’t mean to imply the stories are inept; many are, but there are lots of experienced author with a deep love of this material. I’m not a big fan, more because there is so much of the original material that I have yet to read that I don’t see the point in reading continuations by people who, however well intentioned, are far removed from the time and place and conditions in which the originals were composed.
The new Doc Savage stories have far more legitimacy, of course, so they can’t really be counted among the new pulp movement. Will Murray, who is the executor for Lester Dent’s literary estate, wrote six earlier Doc novels as the Bantam run was winding down. He is now working on a second series for Altus under the title, The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage, and there are six books thus far in that run. What sets them apart from the rest of the new pulp writings is that Will is not only a true expert on the character, having researched and written about almost every aspect of Doc’s “career,” but he is working from unused Doc outlines found in Dent’s papers. These are, as he willingly admits, collaborations. Well, Ok, the newest one, Doc Savage: Skull Island, is a total original, which is why it is by-lined with Murray’s name and not Kenneth Robeson’s. But that doesn’t keep it from being a fine Doc novel, consistent with the rest of the series.
I can’t even begin to list all the small presses that reprint horror fiction and items related to its most famous pulp authors. I sometimes wonder if we won’t eventually get The Shopping Lists of Robert E. Howard or “Laundry Tickets of Clark Ashton Smith.” But seriously, the field in which Lovecraft, Howard and Smith trailblazed is well represented.
Take advantage of this. Time passes, tastes change, and there could come a time when this material could well slip back into obscurity. Dime novels were a huge collectible field int the 1950s, yet are largely forgotten by all but academics today.
Have a good weekend.