Monday, July 9, 2018

Steve Ditko, R.I.P. (1927-2018)

From Andy Lewis and Aaron Couch's 7-6-18 Hollywood Reporter article entitled "Steve Ditko, Spider-Man Co-Creator and Legendary Comics Artist, Dies at 90":
"Artist Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, has died. He was 90.
"The New York Police Department confirmed his death to The Hollywood Reporter. Ditko was found dead in his apartment on June 29; no cause of death has yet been announced."
To read the rest of Lewis and Couch's article, click HERE.
What follow are the first three paragraphs of Graeme McMillan's 7-6-18 Hollywood Reporter article (aptly) entitled "Steve Ditko Was a Creator Ahead of His Time":
"For most people, Steve Ditko will be remembered for co-creating one of Marvel Entertainment’s most iconic characters, Spider-Man. He was the artist who not only illustrated (and, increasingly, plotted) the first years of the wall-crawler’s existence, but co-created most of his iconic rogues’ gallery, including the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, the Sandman, the Lizard and many, many more. For anyone, that would be an impressive creative legacy, but for Ditko, whose death the comics world is reeling from, it was just the beginning.
"Like his Marvel contemporary Jack Kirby, Ditko was a creative powerhouse who continued to create fascinating characters even after splitting with Marvel and Stan Lee. With Lee, he also co-created Doctor Strange and the majority of that character’s mythology and, more importantly, iconography; it’s literally impossible to separate Strange from Ditko, in the same way that the Fantastic Four remain permanently wedded to Kirby. Ditko actually jumped ship from Marvel almost five years before Kirby left, for reasons that neither he nor Stan Lee ever fully explained, but have been assumed to be related to creative freedom and differences in approach between the two men in charge of Spider-Man’s story.
"What this meant was that one of the two men behind one of Marvel’s biggest hits, still on a creative and commercial peak, was suddenly on the market at a time when superheroes were big business — something that made Ditko attractive to Marvel’s competitors, who were generally willing to let him follow his muse no matter where it was going. The result was a number of comic creations that, while not as famous as Peter Parker or Stephen Strange, were just as individual, just as fascinating, and just as full of possibility."
To read the rest of McMillan's article, click HERE.

Here's what I wrote about Ditko's most recent creations in my 12-16-15 Cryptoscatology post:

It’s very strange to me that the common “wisdom” of comicdom seems to suggest that Steve Ditko’s greatest efforts were the works he produced for Marvel Comics in the early 1960s.  Putting the lie to that theory is his most recent series, which is so unconventional that it changes its title every issue.  This series is sometimes referred to by its readers as A Ditko.  Ditko and his partner, Robin Snyder, have been publishing this comic book regularly since 2007.  Some comics fans claim that Ditko's technique has declined in quality over the years, the implication being that his artistic skill deteriorated somehow after he turned his back on his earliest successes at Marvel Comics in the 1960s.  This is tantamount to claiming that Picasso's artistic technique deteriorated when he first experimented with cubism in 1909 with such paintings as The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro, or that Miles Davis' artistic technique began to deteriorate when he first experimented with electronic music in 1969 with his groundbreaking album In a Silent Way.  Similar to both Picasso and Davis, Ditko's most recent contributions to his chosen medium represent bold experiments in extreme minimalism, attempts to drag the medium back to an embryonic state when almost anything was possible because the medium had not yet been locked down, concretized, frozen in stasis.  In his latest work Ditko has reduced human figures to their most basic possible forms in order to emphasize the ideas behind the figures.  Looking at the voluminous artwork Ditko has created in his late eighties reminds me of listening to the songs of an aging blues singer, a ragged voice aged to perfection.  

A Ditko plays with the anthology form that was so prevalent in the earliest days of the comics medium (e.g., Famous FunniesTales from the Crypt,Young Romance, etc.) and transforms it into something altogether strange and new.  The way the various stories, such as “The Madman,” “!?,” and “Miss Eerie,” overlap with one another in terms of locale and theme and tone is mind-boggingly impressive.  I particularly appreciate the enigmatic quality of the stories featuring “The Cape” and “The Distorter."  The truth is that Ditko's artwork in these stories is as engaging and eye-catching and unique as it’s ever been.  Beginning comic book artists often don’t understand that’s it more challenging to do less than more.  Ditko's minimalist style (on full display here) is very effective in portraying the stories he wants to tell, unburdened of all the unnecessary accoutrements I sometimes see younger artists layer onto their work for no real reason.  A Ditko is, without a doubt, my favorite comic book series being published today. 

You can purchase A Ditko by clicking HERE.

 

To watch Harlan Ellison introducing Steve Ditko in Ken Viola's excellent 1987 documentary, The Masters of Comic Book Art, proceed to 19:28 (and hear Ditko discussing his work in his very own words at 20:53):


 

Friday, July 6, 2018

UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES ON SALE!

Digital editions of my latest book, UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES, are on sale today for only $1.99 (part of the Kindle Monthly Deals).  Get your copy right away by clicking HERE!  

 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Harlan Ellison on The Tomorrow Show

Take a few moments out of your day to observe Harlan Ellison at the peak of his irascibility on a trio of episodes from Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show in which Harlan discusses the aftermath of winning his legendary plagiarism suit against ABC, the dangers of Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority, and the transcendental joys of road rage.  

Harlan Ellison On Tomorrow - Plagiarism and Hollywood




 

Harlan Ellison On Tomorrow - Why Television Is Made For Morons

 

 

Harlan Ellison On Tomorrow - Random

 


Also, check out John Scalzi's 6-28-18 Los Angeles Times article about Harlan HERE.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Harlan Ellison, R.I.P. (1934-2018)

Harlan Ellison, the legendary author of well over a thousand short stories, has passed away at the age of 84.  Back in August of 2014 I mailed Harlan a copy of my book, Spies & Saucers, a collection of three interlinking novellas that all take place in the 1950s.  Along with the book I included a cover letter explaining how much his work had meant to me over the years.  It just so happened that the package arrived on his doorstep the very same day Robin Williams died.  Williams was Harlan's longtime friend, appeared alongside him in Erik Nelson's 2008 documentary Harlan Ellison:  Dreams With Sharp Teeth, and even inspired one of his short stories ("Keyboard") in Harlan's 1997 collection, Slippage.  About a week after putting that package in the mail, I received a brief message from Harlan telling me how much my letter had meant to him on an otherwise bleak day.  That I had contributed, in some small way, to easing such overwhelming and incomprehensible pain meant a great deal to me.  

A few months later, in December, I sent Harlan a copy of my recently published New York Review of Science Fiction piece about his two latest books, Pulling a Train and Getting in the Wind.  Once again, Harlan responded not long afterwards.  As with the previous correspondence, the letter was cleanly written on a vintage Smith-Corona manual typewriter and read (in part): 


Dear Robert,

What a dynamite review!  Genuine day-making killer.

I am in your debt; unfortunate that [for propriety's sake, I've redacted a caustically humorous remark about a deceased science fiction editor].  But now I have the Good Words, and I thank you evermuch!

yr. Pal, Harlan

The letter now hangs on my wall, framed in glass.  Harlan deemed something I wrote to be a "dynamite, day-making killer," and pleased him enough to claim that he was in my debt.  Well, of course, the situation was the other way around and always would be.  Anyone who was ever touched by the fiery power of his imagination will forever be in Harlan's debt.

If you've somehow escaped the hypnotic pull of Harlan's work up to this point, I suggest beginning with my favorite of his many excellent collections, Angry Candy (1988), which my older brother bought for me as a Christmas gift when I was sixteen years old.  That might very well be the best Christmas gift I've ever received.  Appropriately, given today's events, Angry Candy is all about dealing with the unbearable mysteries of death.

Synchronistically, Harlan's latest book, Blood's a Rover, arrived on my doorstep just yesterday.  I had begun reading it only hours before his death. 

As when Ray Bradbury passed away in 2012 (also in the month of June), I decided to honor Harlan's memory by writing a new short story.  My Postscripts novelette, "The Wedding Photographer," emerged from that protracted period of mourning for Bradbury and remains one of my favorites of the thirty or so stories I've published.  As Harlan himself wrote in the Author's Note at the end of "The Museum on Cyclops Avenue" (a story inspired by Robert Bloch's passing), "The work goes on."


"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered."
--Harlan Ellison, Afterword to The Essential Ellison

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Conspirinormal Goes On the Road!

Adam Sayne, host of the excellent podcast Conspirinormal, decided to take his show on the road a couple of weeks ago.  During his first trip to California, Adam visited with Adam Gorightly (author of The Shadow Over Santa Susana:  Black Magic, Mind Control and the Manson Family Mythos), Walter Bosley (author of Latitude 33:  Key to the Kingdom), and Yours Truly (author of Chameleo, Until the Last Dog Dies, and other cryptoscatological jabberwocky).  On June 6, Adam and I recorded our discussion at Enrique's Mexican Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach.  While eating zucchini and mushroom quesadillas, Adam and I discussed such esoterica as:  The Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles; the LAPD's investigation into the death of Manly P. Hall; Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and the weird dangers of hypnotism; San Diego's Whaley House (which some say is the most haunted house in the United States); the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and John Lennon; George Bush and the Iran-Contra Affair; Wormwood and the murder of Frank Olson; Jessica Jones and gangstalking; Stranger Things and the Montauk Project; the curious misdeeds of Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton; chatting idly with mind-controlled super-soldiers at one's place of employment; nanotechnology, black oil, and the forthcoming Venom film; Milton Berle's twelve-inch penis; among numerous other imponderables. 



The next day, Adam moved on to Morro Bay where he interviewed Adam Gorightly about the UFO crash in Aztec, New Mexico; the lost manuscript of James Shelby Downard; King Kill 33°; the strange misadventures of such infamous alien contactees as George Adamski and Orfeo Angelucci; the homemade flying saucers of Otis T. Carr; David Jacobs and a real life Invasion of the Body Snatchers; and protecting yourself from murderous Freemasons with ink-filled squirt guns.


Finally, Adam ended his vacation with a visit to San Bernardino where he accompanied Walter Bosley on a walking tour of haunted locations along the 33rd Parallel. 


To listen to this latest episode of Conspirinormal (On the Road Edition), see below....

 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Calling All Earthlings

From Greg Eghigian's 6-14-18 Air & Space article entitled "New Film Tells the Story of George Van Tassel and His UFO-Inspired 'Integratron'":  
"Are we witnessing a renewal of interest in unidentified flying objects? Recent revelations about a secret Defense Department project for studying UFOs continue to draw media attention, while reports of unusual aircraft sightings show up regularly in the news.
"Not quite as common these days, however, are stories of individuals claiming to have had contact with extraterrestrials. In his new documentary, Calling All Earthlings, filmmaker Jonathan Berman takes a look back at one of the most famous of these 'contactees,' George Van Tassel. The film captures an aspect of UFO belief that often escapes skeptical outsiders—that it wasn’t so much anxiety about alien visitors as enthusiasm and hope that attracted believers to the idea of extraterrestrial contact.
"Beginning in 1927 as an airplane mechanic right out of high school, Van Tassel had a long career in aviation, first with Douglas Aircraft, then with Hughes and Lockheed. At Hughes he was involved in flight testing near Barstow, California, where he was attracted to the 'clean air, the intense quiet nights, and outdoor living in the desert.'
"It was there that Van Tassel got to know an eccentric German-American by the name of Frank Critzer, who had carved out a 'cave home' from a natural landmark known as Giant Rock in the Mojave Desert near Landers, California. Critzer came under government investigation in the early days of World War II for reasons that are not entirely clear, but most likely involved his use of dynamite. When local police came to Giant Rock to question him in July 1942, Critzer set off an explosion that resulted in his own death.
"After the war Van Tassel purchased the land around Giant Rock and moved there with his wife Dorris and their three daughters. In addition to operating a small airport, he began to hold meditation readings for groups of 25 to 45 people—and for the first time reported hearing disembodied voices.
"Then, beginning in 1952, Van Tassel claimed he started having encounters with spacemen. At first, he said, these beings issued warnings of looming destruction along with messages of universal peace. But soon, according to Van Tassel, they began instructing him on how to construct a building that could reverse the aging process. Dubbed the Integratron, the project would consume Van Tassel for years, although he never finished it."
Click HERE to read Eghigian's entire article.  



For more information about the legendary George Van Tassel (author of I RODE A FLYING SAUCER:  THE MYSTERY OF THE FLYING SAUCERS REVEALED), I refer you to my 2-25-15 post entitled "Lo, the Integratron!":

What follows are some photos of my own pilgrimage to George Van Tassel's Integratron--as well as to nearby Giant Rock--just this past October.  I made this journey in the company of my good friend Eric Williams and inventor Richard Schowengerdt (whose explosive theories are featured prominently in my book, CHAMELEO).  If you're a UFO enthusiast living in Southern California, you shouldn't hesitate to make this trip.  Upon approaching the remote destination after hours of driving, you can only stare in awe as the blazing white dome of the Integratron emerges out of the barren, Ralph-Steadmanesque desert landscape like a mythical fortress from a fractured fairy tale.  This is a quite a surreal experience, to say the least.  You can't help but feel the the 1950s UFO energy rising from the desert floor in tangible waves of 100% pure FORTEAN HEAT!  


Watch the official trailer for CALLING ALL EARTHLINGS:







Friday, June 15, 2018

Missing Air Force Officer

From The Daily Grail's 6-12-18 article entitled "Missing Air Force Officer Found After More Than 30 Years (And Its Indirect Link With the UFO-Bennewitz Affair)":
 
On June 10th the Albuquerque Journal ran a somewhat quizzical article: An Air Force officer who mysteriously disappeared almost 35 years ago had just been located and apprehended, living under a different identity in California.
According to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), the State Department was recently investigating a man claiming to be “Barry O’Beirne” during a passport fraud inquiry.
“After being confronted with inconsistencies about his identity, the individual admitted his true name was William Howard Hughes Jr., and that he deserted from the U.S. Air Force in 1983,” an AFOSI news release reads.
Hughes, now 66, told investigators that he was “depressed” about his Air Force career, so he assumed the fictitious identity of O’Beirne and had been living in California ever since.
But AFOSI spokeswoman Linda Card said there are many more questions to be answered as the investigation continues.
The reason why this particular story should be interesting to the readers of the Daily Grail, is because Hughes used to be stationed at the Kirtland Air Force base by the time he went AWOL (specifically, at the Air Force Operation Test and Evaluation Center). Around the same time a man by the name of Paul Bennewitz –a brilliant electrical engineer residing in Albuquerque, who aside from running a successful company that performed contracts for the Air Force, was also a UFO enthusiast and member of APRO— had been sounding the alarms and was utterly convinced that the strange lights he’d been observing for years over Kirtland and the Manzano Weapons Storage Area (a humongous man-made cavern built inside a mountain to store nuclear weapons, which was decommissioned in 1992) were evidence of nepharious Extraterrestrial activity....

To read the entire article, click HERE.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Assassination of RFK

Fifty years ago today, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles while campaigning for the Democratic nomination.  In light of this grim anniversary, I suggest reading Tom Jackman's 5-26-18 Washington Post article entitled "Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?  His Son RFK Jr. Doesn't Believe It Was Sirhan Sirhan."  Here's a brief excerpt:

"Just before Christmas, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulled up to the massive Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, a California state prison complex in the desert outside San Diego that holds nearly 4,000 inmates. Kennedy was there to visit Sirhan B. Sirhan, the man convicted of killing his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, nearly 50 years ago.
"While his wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, waited in the car, Kennedy met with Sirhan for three hours, he revealed to The Washington Post last week. It was the culmination of months of research by Kennedy into the assassination, including speaking with witnesses and reading the autopsy and police reports.
"'I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,' Kennedy said. He would not discuss the specifics of their conversation. But when it was over, Kennedy had joined those who believe there was a second gunman, and that it was not Sirhan who killed his father."
To read the entire article, click HERE.  

After reading Jackman's article, listen to political researcher Mae Brussell analyze the "deep politics" of the RFK assassination in the following episodes of her radio show Dialogue: Conspiracy:

Mae Brussell: The RFK Assassination (10-20-1971)





Mae Brussell: Sirhan Sirhan Was a Victim of CIA Hypnosis & Mind Erasing (6-6-77)




As I wrote in Chapter One of my first book, CRYPTOSCATOLOGY:  CONSPIRACY THEORY AS ART FORM:

"If one reads the 1978 book The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by William Turner and Jonn Christian, one will realize that Sirhan Sirhan could not have been responsible for any of the wounds suffered by Senator Kennedy that fateful summer night in 1968.  This is a classic in its field, written by an FBI agent and a professional newsman, and deserves to be more widely known among those interested in the hidden agendas guiding American history from behind the scenes.  The bullets that murdered John F. Kennedy’s younger brother did not come from Sirhan Sirhan’s gun; in fact, the probable identity of the real gunman can be found within the pages of this very  book.  No 'theory' here, just facts."

Copies of The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy are available HERE.
Image result for the assassination of robert f. kennedy william turner

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE QUEEN OF CONSPIRACIES!

In honor of what would have been the 96th birthday of political researcher Mae Brussell (1922-1988), often referred to as "the Queen of Conspiracies," I suggest listening to her 11-22-76 radio broadcast about the subject of CIA mind control operations.  Take it away, Mae....






Monday, May 28, 2018

CONVERSATIONS WITH PHILIP K. DICK

Do yourself a favor--and help Tessa B. Dick at the very same time--by purchasing a copy of Tessa's excellent new book, CONVERSATIONS WITH PHILIP K. DICK.  Earlier this year, on March 28th, I posted the following review of CONVERSATIONS WITH PHILIP K. DICK on Amazon:


"Of all the books written about Philip K. Dick, this is the one you want to read--the one that provides the most intimate portrait of the man on multiple levels ranging from the mundane to the metaphysical, from the charmingly quotidian to the inexplicably bizarre.  Highly recommended!"

Tessa is now in need of some serious financial support, as evidenced by the following message she posted on Facebook earlier today:

"I really need your help, or I am not going to make it. I don't know how to explain that I can't sleep because every time I close my eyes, I see that gangbanger with a knife to a boy's throat. I can't go anywhere because every time I walk out the door, I see his gangster buddies coming after me because my testimony put their buddy in prison. I got crisis counseling and I coped for twelve years, but I can't cope any more. I went through major forest fires in 2003 and 2008, a severe burn to my foot in 2007, a head injury in 2010, a broken leg in 2012, and more stress than I can describe. I got a settlement for the head injury that didn't even cover my medical bills, which is why I had to go bankrupt. I should qualify for disability, based on my severe weight loss alone, but they keep turning me down. My only hope is to get this house in good enough shape to get a reverse mortgage." 
 
You can help out Tessa B. Dick by donating to her fundraiser.  Simply click right HERE!  After you've done that, head on over to Amazon and purchase a copy of CONVERSATIONS WITH PHILIP K. DICK.  You won't be at all disappointed.

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.)