Sunday, May 27, 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARLAN ELLISON!

In honor of Harlan Ellison's 84th birthday, I'm reposting a pair of book reviews I wrote for THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION regarding three of his most recent short story collections.  These two reviews originally appeared in THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION #295 (March 2013) and THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION #335 (July 2016)....


Still Pulling This Train:  Harlan Ellison’s PULLING A TRAIN and GETTING IN THE WIND

by Robert Guffey

  
Bearing titles with deliciously lascivious double entendres, Harlan Ellison’s latest story collections—Pulling a Train:  Violent Stories of Naked Passions and Getting in the Wind:  More Stories By a Very Young Harlan Ellison—are dark twins linked by the common themes of erotic violence and violent eroticism. 

Though well-known for having written such classic short stories as “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” (1965), “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (1967), “Grail” (1981), and “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore” (1992), Ellison began his career in the late 1950s churning out penny-a-word pulp stories for men’s magazines such as Guilty, Manhunt and Trapped.  Considered pornographic upon their original 1959 paperback release, under the title Sex Gang, the stories featured in Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind have been resurrected by Brooklyn-based Kicks Books publisher Miriam Linna (a former musician who once performed with such punk bands as The Cramps and Nervous Rex).  Intended as nothing more than space-filler for long-deceased “he-man publications” such as Knave, Rogue and Caper, these tales have risen like a perverted phoenix from the puritanical ashes of 1950s moral strictures.  Both books are fascinating time capsules.  What must have seemed like standard softcore porn in 1959 now emerge in the 21st century as historical records of the cultural mores of midcentury America and the ever-shifting borders between what’s considered decency and degeneracy in mainstream culture. 

If titillation alone had been the main impetus of these stories, then reprinting them now would be a waste of time.  But Harlan Ellison, even in his early 20s, was too talented to take the easy way out of any assignment no matter how perfunctory it may have seemed at the time.  In his entertaining introduction to Pulling a Train (entitled “Inescapable Cemeteries”), Ellison calls these “zilch” stories “crude,” and of course they are.  And yet the overall  tone of the stories are permeated with an offbeat world weariness, genuine schadenfreude, unusual for a young writer fresh out of Ohio who somehow found himself in the 1950s Big Apple cranking out one-handed reads to make ends meet.  It’s this curiously dark tone that lifts the material above its utilitarian roots. 

The centerpiece of Pulling a Train is a lurid novella entitled “Sex Gang,” a hardboiled crime story about an eighteen-year-old thug named Deek Cullen who seems to be at the end of his rope when we’re first introduced to him and quickly descends—inch by painful inch—deeper into darkness as the tale progresses.  Cullen’s desperation is palatable and effectively conveyed through Ellison’s staccato, stripped-down prose as the protagonist becomes unwillingly involved with an all-girl gang who spend their empty days stalking the mean streets of New York and raping virile young men like Deek in their spare time.  Though the novella was “written for a buck” (as Ellison says in his intro) at lightning speed, nonetheless one can’t help but feel for Cullen’s confusion and his utter inability to escape the tragic fate that awaits him.  Ostensibly aimed at male readers, from the perspective of the present day one might nonetheless interpret this quasi-noir tale of sudden and near-inexplicable violence as a proto-feminist manifesto, Valerie-Solanas-style, almost ten years ahead of its time.  Its blood-spattered plot twists, interspersed with tough-talking knockout Amazons, prefigure the self-aware, self-mocking tone of Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 film, Death Proof.  Indeed, while reading “Sex Gang,” I couldn’t help but think that this is the stuff Quentin Tarantino probably dreams about writing.  (I also couldn’t help but think that “Sex Gang” would make a fascinating 21st century film, if adapted properly—or perhaps “improperly” would be the apt word in this context.)

The most intriguing stories in both Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind are those that merge pornography with noir strains:  the aforementioned “Sex Gang,” “A Girl Named Poison,” “Dead Wives Don’t Cheat,” and “Carrion Flesh.”  All four of these pessimistic tales have not been in print since their original appearance in 1959 and are worth the price of admission alone. 

After finishing these two books at a fast clip, I pulled out my copy of Leslie Swigart’s exhaustive (and now very rare) 1973 bibliography of Ellison’s works entitled Harlan Ellison:  A Bibliographical Checklist, and uncovered references to many other early Ellison tales that—to my knowledge—have never been reprinted since their original publication in the 1950s pulp magazines that spawned them.  These stories bear such wonderfully over-the-top titles as “Psycho at Midpoint,” “Homicidal Maniac,” “Scum Town,” “Glug,” “Satan Is My Ally,” “Only Death Can Stop It,” and “A Corpse Can Hate.”  One can only hope that the release of Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind might soon lead to the resurrection of these other lost gems from America’s pop cultural past. 

To order either Pulling a Train or Getting in the Wind, visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE. 


A Cabinet of Wonders:  Harlan Ellison's CAN & CAN’TANKEROUS

 

by Robert Guffey


Harlan Ellison’s latest short story collection, Can & Can’tankerous, is nothing less than a cabinet of wonders built by a demented magician—a box filled to bursting with carnivalesque impossibilities such as doomed and/or omnipotent homunculi, conquering alien imps who unknowingly help the human race while trying to destroy it, time travelling super models, beneficent rubber ducks, Martian sex slaves, phantom cartographers, the 1948 Cleveland Indians, at least twenty-six different brands of mythological beings, and (thrown in for good measure) the ghost of Satchel Paige.  This collection of ten short stories published between 1956 and 2012 spans an impressive array of genres, time periods, worlds, and emotions.

As with his previous books, such as the classic collections Deathbird Stories (1975) and Angry Candy (1988), Ellison is able to gracefully segue from one genre to another within only a few pages—sometimes within the same story.  For example, the third offering in the book, “Objects of Desire in the Mirror Are Closer than They Appear,” combines classic science fiction tropes with a heavily noirish atmosphere, creating a hybrid that somehow looks and feels nothing like the parent-genres that breathed it into existence in the first place. 

The centerpiece of the book, a 15,000-word novella entitled “The Toad Prince, or, Sex Queen of the Martian Pleasure-Domes,” is a near-impossibility:  an impressive feat of close-up magic that excels at pulse-pounding science fiction adventure redolent of 1950s pulp stereotypes while succeeding in being a satirical deconstruction of those same well-worn clich├ęs.  As I avidly read the planet-hopping adventures of Sarna (Our Hero), a Terran prostitute trapped in a world of sex-crazed Martians, for some reason my brain insisted on imagining this epic as a graphic novel drawn by the late sui generis artist Moebius, who often combined cosmic vistas, blatantly sexual themes, and Golden Age science fiction tropes in his own unforgettable stories.  (Hollywood producers, please take note:  If not a comic book, this novella would also make a wonderful animated movie in the style of such borderline-psychedelic SF films as Fantastic Planet and Heavy Metal.)

For the purists among you who have an inherent distaste for Golden Age retro themes in your genre of choice, rest assured that this collection of stories includes at least four Master Class tales that are as accomplished as the best short fiction produced in America during the past two decades:  “How Interesting:  A Tiny Man” (which won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 2011), a wildly inventive—and oddly affecting—twist on the age-old concept of the golem; “Incognita, Inc.,” a melancholy tale about an old man responsible for creating the maps that have led countless generations of adventurers to the lands of myth and legend, a deft parable that can ultimately be seen as a wistful meditation on the death (and, one hopes, rebirth) of the imagination in our overly commodified society; “He Who Grew Up Reading Sherlock Holmes,” a devilishly clever jigsaw puzzle of a tale that compels you to begin rereading it the second you’ve finished the final sentence; and “Goodbye to All That,” an absurdist fantasy that has the fearless audacity to create a scenario that can only be resolved by revealing the Ultimate Punchline to the Ultimate Joke… and, in the end, despite this ostensibly impossible-to-overcome buildup, somehow manages to be funny

“Goodbye to All That” is also noteworthy in that it expands on Ellison’s ongoing obsession with Lost World scenarios, a type of story rarely attempted these days; in fact, one could say it’s an extinct subgenre.  Ellison’s contributions are unique in that these types of exotic adventures, whether novelistic or cinematic, tend to be epic in nature, e.g., H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887) or Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s King Kong (1933).  Ellison’s Lost World stories, however, compress such sweeping narratives into only a few pages.  Some of the most memorable tales in Ellison’s 1997 collection, Slippage, played with Lost World scenarios in a variety of fascinating ways (e.g., “Darkness Upon the Face of the Deep,” “Chatting with Anubis,” and “Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral”). 

Several of the stories in Can & Can’tankerous flirt with this venerable Lost World concept, e.g., “From A to Z, in the Sarsaparilla Alphabet,” “Incognita, Inc.,” and “Goodbye to All That.”  I suspect “Goodbye to All That” was inspired by a juxtaposition of two wildly different narratives:  James Hilton’s bestselling 1933 novel Lost Horizon, perhaps the most famous Lost World story of the twentieth century (the protagonist of “Goodbye to All That” is named Colman, no doubt in honor of Ronald Colman, the star of Frank Capra’s 1937 film adaptation of Lost Horizon) and Robert Sheckley’s antic 1976 Playboy story “What Is Life?” in which an explorer treks to a mountaintop in the Himalayas only to be confronted by an invisible deity who demands that the intruder provide him with the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.  In “Goodbye to All That” Ellison manages to trump Sheckley’s insanely clever solution to an impossible scenario (I won’t spoil the punchline to Sheckley’s story in case you’ve never read it, but it can be found in his 1978 short story collection entitled The Robot Who Looked Like Me).

Overall, Can & Can’tankerous is a worthy follow-up to Ellison’s Slippage, his last book of “previously uncollected, precariously poised stories.”  The wonders in this particular magic cabinet are just as precariously poised (perhaps even more so), in the sense that they seem simultaneously familiar and unpredictable, graceful and unbalanced, logical and irrational—a genuine paradox, perhaps the greatest magic trick of all.

To order Can & Can’tankerous, visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

HYPERSPACE AND THE EXISTENCE OF STRANGE THINGS

On the evening of May 18th I appeared on Solaris Blueraven's HYPERSPACE radio show, which airs every Friday night at 9 PM PST/12 AM EST on the KCOR Digital Radio Network.  Over the course of this two-hour long interview, we discuss my latest book UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES, the death of humor in the 21st century, the war on kids in the American educational system, the debilitating effects of Common Core, the revolutionary act of creative writing in a system intent on wiping out the imagination itself, the deadly legacy of Dr. Jose Delgado and the physical control of the mind, synthetic ghosts, the weaponization of the supernatural, remote controlled super-soldiers, and much, much more.  This latest interview can be heard in its entirety right HERE.


A week earlier, on the evening of May 11th, I appeared on THE EXISTENCE OF STRANGE THINGS hosted by Fortean investigator Sean Forker.  The main focus of this interview is my journalistic memoir CHAMELEO:  A STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY OF INVISIBLE SPIES, HEROIN ADDICTION, AND HOMELAND SECURITY.  During this radio show I discuss my friend Dion Fuller's ongoing battles with Naval Criminal Investigative Services, the recent release of government mind control files as the result of a FOIA request investigating the rise of white supremacy, and cap off the episode by providing the Ultimate Fortean Answer to the Ultimate Fortean Question:  "What is your favorite strange thing?"  (Hint:  The answer involves bearded bedroom invaders wearing red-and-black plaid shirts.)

I enter this episode of THE EXISTENCE OF STRANGE THINGS at the midway point, at around 1:28:00.  The entire interview can be heard right HERE.  


Thursday, May 10, 2018

THE EXISTENCE OF STRANGE THINGS

On Friday, May 11, tune into radio-memphis.com at 8:00 P.M. PST/11:00 P.M. EST and listen to my latest interview on THE EXISTENCE OF STRANGE THINGS.  

Click HERE to tune into the live stream.



Monday, May 7, 2018

"The Loser" in BLACK CAT MYSTERY MAGAZINE

I just sold my 13,000-word novelette “The Loser" to BLACK CAT MYSTERY MAGAZINE (published by Wildside Press).  "The Loser" is a crime noir story based loosely on an actual murder committed by someone I knew back at Kurt T. Shery High, a continuation school in Torrance, California.  The novelette will be appearing in a future volume, the exact issue still to be decided.  I'll post further details when I have them! 

 

Monday, April 23, 2018

U.S. Government Accidentally Releases Records on Remote Mind Control

On April 18, 2018, MuckRock.com published Curtis Waltman's article entitled "Washington State Fusion Center Accidentally Releases Records on Remote Mind Control" from which the following five paragraphs have been extracted:

"When you send thousands of FOIA requests, you are bound to get some very weird responses from time to time. Recently, we here at MuckRock had one of our most bizarre gets yet - Washington State Fusion Center’s accidental release of records on the effects of remote mind control.
"As part of my ongoing project looking at fusion centers’ investigations into Antifa and various white supremacist groups, I filed a request with the WSFC. I got back many standard documents in response, including emails, intelligence briefings and bulletins, reposts from other fusion centers - and then there was one file titled 'EM effects on human body.zip.'
"Hmmm. What could that be? What does EM stand for and what is it doing to the human body? So I opened it up and took a look [...].
"It’s difficult to source exactly where these images come from, but it’s obviously not government material. One seems to come from a person named 'Supratik Saha,' who is identified as a software engineer, the brain mapping slide has no sourcing, and the image of the body being assaulted by psychotronic weapons is sourced from raven1.net, who apparently didn’t renew their domain.
"It’s entirely unclear how this ended up in this release. It could have been meant for another release, it could have been gathered for an upcoming WSFC report, or it could even be from the personal files of an intelligence officer that somehow got mixed up in the release. A call to the WSFC went unreturned as of press time, so until we hear back, their presence remains a mystery.
Not surprisingly, the reporter does not understand the true significance of these files.  If you've read my book CHAMELEO, you'll know that I discuss Eleanor White (and her defunct website, raven1.net) on pp. 40-43.  I cite her website as one of the earliest and most important sources of information regarding the gangstalking phenomenon.  Without a doubt, many of the files released to MuckRock originated from White's website, raven1.net.  (I recall seeing some of these files myself back in 2003-04.)  Rather than lessening the significance of the release, this fact only makes it all the more intriguing.  

The real question to ask about this mysterious situation is as follows:  Why would U.S. intelligence officers waste their time fastidiously filing away the contents of a website run by an insignificant  "paranoid-schizophrenic" (a convenient label often slapped on Targeted Individuals by mainstream sources such as the New York Times in their 6-10-16 article "United States of Paranoia:  They See Gangs of Stalkers")?  If nothing else, this accidental release proves White's claims were indeed accurate.  If she had not been under constant government surveillance, these files wouldn't even exist.  Therefore, White's accusations against the government were by no means due to a mere psychological disorder.  The incontrovertible proof of White's incessant--and wholly illegal--surveillance had been tucked out of sight within the bowels of the military-industrial complex... until now.

Click HERE to read Waltman's entire article.  (A related article can be found at DailyMail.com right HERE.)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

UFO CLASSIFIED

On Friday, April 20th, I appeared on Erica Lukes' radio show UFO CLASSIFIED and discussed my books CHAMELEO and CRYPTOSCATOLOGY.  Join Erika and I as we analyze the connections between iniquitous American defense companies (such as LEIDOS and SAIC) and key paranormal hotspots in the United States (such as the legendary Skinwalker Ranch in Utah and the haunted Whaley House in San Diego), breakthroughs in optical camouflage technology and the alien abduction phenomena, military psychological warfare tactics and the Men In Black lore, gangstalking and the prescient research of the late John A. Keel, and psycho-electronic weaponry and the Columbine Shooting.  We also delve into such verifiable government conspiracies as the little known "Project 112" (a biological and chemical weapon experimentation project conducted by the Department of Defense), the government's use of drug addicts, prisoners and mental patients as experimental guinea pigs, invisible predators roaming our national forests, vampire killings in the Philippines faked by American intelligence agencies, and much, much more.  If all that's not enough to pique your interest, for the first time I tell the story of how I became a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason, then unveil the STARTLING contents of a Top Secret Masonic Library in Southern California.... 

Click HERE to listen to my appearance on UFO CLASSFIED!

You can also listen to the program on YouTube below: