SENSOR SWEEP: Melon Massacres, Dead Fandoms, Meaningful Answers, and Scrawny Little ‘Epics’

Monday , 4, September 2017 12 Comments

Movies (RMWC Reviews) Movie Review: Mr. Majestyk (1974) — “There’s a few nods to the labor disputes of the early 70s, but at its core, its basically a libertarian western. The man just wants to get his harvest in and make some money, and the cops do nothing except get in the way of that. Everybody else in the movie thinks he’s crazy, since with all the madness going on, his main fixation is the melon harvest. But in context, it makes sense. Its his livelihood and independence on the line, and he’d be ruined it he couldn’t sell the crop. Even the melon massacre works in that context. The hero and villain both understand the symbolism of the crop.”

Appendix N (Cirsova) A Look at the Opening Chapter of Tarzan Triumphant — “So, right in the first chapter, we have a lot of stuff we constantly hear about old works flipped on its head; the story starts with female lead, and after these introductions, continues with her; the ‘adorkable’ male hero, often thought to be a much more recent modern trope, is described in his dorkiness and we are shown how he will grow through the listing of what he lacks; Tarzan is going to fight communists – this is 1931, and Papa Joe is shown to be a cold, calculating and evil man who needs to be stopped – this isn’t Cold War spooks, Burroughs knows Stalin’s a rotten dude; Tarzan is anti-colonial – we always hear about the colonialist attitudes of the pulps, or that the pulps failed to examine and address colonialism, but we’re straight up told that Tarzan doesn’t want white dudes exploiting and messing with the tribes in Africa.”

Comics (Vintage Geek Culture) Dead Fandoms, Part 3 — “If nerd culture fandoms were drugs, Star Wars would be alcohol, Doctor Who would be weed, but Legion of Super-Heroes would be injecting heroin directly into your eyeballs. Maybe it is because the Legionnaires were nerdy, too: they played Dungeons and Dragons in their off time (an escape, no doubt, from their humdrum, mundane lives as galaxy-rescuing superheroes). There were sometimes call outs to Monty Python. Basically, the whole thing had a feel like the dorkily earnest skits or filk-singing at a con. Legion felt like it’s own fan series, guest starring Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Lore of the Witch World by Andre Norton — “Witch World is one of my favorite series. Not every book is perfect, but together they present one of the most detailed and complex fantasy settings I’m familiar with, that does not bog down in thousand-page books. Without ever succumbing to the violence and sadism too frequently trafficked in as ‘realism’ by some contemporary authors, Norton also created a world that, while never losing its aura of the fantastical, reflects the realities of war, misplaced heroism, and the place of women and the weak in a pre-industrial world. Don’t read that as these books are any sort of sociological or political preaching, but instead, a serious, and mostly successful, attempt to merge fantasy and realism. This book, The Lore of Witch World, is the very best introduction to the series, and you cannot go wrong in purchasing a copy.”

Pulp Revolution ( When in Doubt, Go Epic — “Pink SFF — SFF more concerned about virtue-signalling and evangelising causes — has perverted the purpose of SFF. Where we once had heroes, we now had amoral nihilistic villains; in the place of wondrous kingdoms we have rotting empires; virtue is punished and the evil elevated; gods were no longer mighty and dignified, but rather weak and piteous, or simply satanic. There is no beauty to admire, no virtue to celebrate, no heroes to adore, no truth to learn. This is why SFF is now the least popular literary genre in the world — and quite likely at least part of the reason why many people just don’t read any more.”

Appendix N (Rawle Nyanzi) Normal Heroes — “Even in the most fantastical settings, few heroes had anything like the panoply of abilities that modern superheroes have. At best, you would have a John Carter granted a slight power boost by Mars’ lesser gravity, or a Holger Danske knowledgable about scientific things that medieval people wouldn’t be, or a Viking warrior wielding a cursed sword. But nobody in classic sci-fi and fantasy wields some innate enhanced power like a weapon to mow down small-fry villains while clawing their way to the big boss….”

Pink Slime Watch (Vox Popoli) The epic greatness of Stephen Donaldson — “In my opinion, what Donaldson attempted to do, and the degree to which he succeeded, is considerably more of a literary accomplishment than anything that Abercrombie, Bakker, or any of the other epic fantasy authors have managed to do. And if his more recent work has not been of a similar level – and it has not – that does not detract from the excellence of the first series.”

Pulp Revolution (Misha Burnett) Yes, I know I’m doing it wrong. — “I suspect that most writers who make a living as writers would agree with the description of writing as manufacturing. They would say that they strive to produce good books on a regular basis and that they continually refine their writing process to make sure that what they deliver is the best that they can create. I am not a manufacturer, though. I am an inventor. Again, that statement is not intended as a value judgement. I am not claiming some kind of artistic high ground. It’s a different way of approaching the craft, that’s all.”

Can’t Stop the Signal (We Are the Mutants) “Your Eyes Can Deceive You”: How the Boldness of Star Trek Became the Blind Faith of Star Wars — “In 1966, young people wanted meaningful answers, they wanted out of the war, they wanted inclusiveness, they wanted to protect the environment and the diverse creations of diverse cultures. As the most privileged generation in American history, they had the luxury of wanting and demanding those things. Federation ’employment,’ it turns out, was not unlike everyday reality for the Boomers: Kirk and company have little to worry about except the conflicts they have asked for. By 1977, things had changed. Recession came home to roost, there were no jobs, parents were absent, the middle class started to erode. The young wanted cigarettes and beer—scarce commodities at this point—and any sort of escape they could manage: video games, role-playing games, laser light shows, and, on May 25th, a film called Star Wars. If impulsive Kirk and rational Spock are the heroes of the ’60s rebels, then take-no-shit Princess Leia and the mercenary, ‘scruffy-looking’ Han Solo belong to ’70s kids. One of these generations sold out, by the way, and it wasn’t mine.”

Appendix N (Vox Popoli) Some things don’t change — “I mentioned this before, and when I did, I was thinking this all reminded me of something else, though. Then, when I saw Glyer’s reference to it, the recollection hit me, almost entirely unlike a cheetah. What it reminded me of is Michael Moorcock’s nominal critique of Tolkien, although, as we know, Moorcock was really just whining about the fact that nearly everyone who is literate prefers Tolkien’s books to his own tedious, poorly-plotted, scrawny little ‘epics’. And even those who aren’t literate would definitely prefer a Lord of the Rings movie to an Elric one.”

Pulp Revolution (SuperversiveSF) A Modern Day Fahrenheit 451 — “Publishers like Superversive Press, Silver Empire and Castalia House are opening up the doors to books that present stories that used to be mainstream, but are now unwanted by the Big 5 because they don’t promote society destroying ideas.”

Enough Already (Chicago Tribune) Politics is causing the death of fun as we know it — “Our culture’s encroaching default mode of ‘All Politics, All The Time’ is almost exhaustingly boring. It is cringeworthy. It is tedious. It could signal the slow death of fun as we know it.”

D&D (Oldenhammer in Toronto) Don’t You Dare Play an Evil Character in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons — “The most striking part of the whole debate is how seriously people took AD&D. It seems that in the 1980’s, the imaginary world of the role-playing game cut much closer to the bone than it does in our more jaded and ironic present. Reading Kerr’s article and all the responding letters conveys an impression that the gaming sessions of the mid-1980’s were viscerally linked to one’s personality and outlook on life. What happened on the gaming table mattered, and said something about you as a person. In this sense, there was a thinner barrier between the realm of fantasy and the world of reality.”

  • deuce says:

    Great post by Alex. ERB was not the writer the Haters say he was. He was far more powerful and innovative than they could ever imagine.

    Oh, and props for using Krenkel’s original cover painting for THUVIA, MAID OF MARS, Jeffro.

    • Robespierre says:

      ERB put all sorts of extra details and observations in his stories. In TARZAN AND THE FOREIGN LEGION (which I read after deuce recommended it) he even threw in a Johnny Weismuller joke. One of the characters mistakes Tarzan for Weismuller which makes the book something of a meta-novel.

      Tarzan accompanies the crew of a B 24 Liberator which crashes in Sumatra. The book was written in ’44 and the WW II details are great, and his handling of the young G.I.s is really touching.

      At one point the older Englishman/beastman tells one of the young G.I.s that if it weren’t for the Americans “. . . the war would be over by now, and Hitler and Tojo would have won it. The World owes you an enormous debt.”
      “I wonder if it will pay it,” said Jerry.
      “Probably not,” said Tarzan.

      • John E. Boyle says:

        Tarzan and the Foreign Legion is another reason why, if you like any Tarzan book, you should read them all (just not at once). Even the average books have great ideas, and the good ones, like T&tFL, are great reads.

        *Keep in mind when reading The Foreign Legion that ERB was an eyewitness to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    • deuce says:

      I’m glad I turned you on to a good book! ERB went “meta” with Tarzan in at least one earlier Tarzan novel.

      Burroughs was almost 69yrs old when he wrote T&tFL. Even in his twilight years, he possessed more fire and imagination than all but a select few writers ever have.

  • john silence says:

    Gotta love how leftards are endlessly triggered by the fact that LotR is acknowledged as one of major literary classics of the last century. It is just this sore that never heals, and Tolkien is like a perpetual punching bag for them.
    Meanwhile, no matter how much they try to read into them, Moorcock’s fantasy is like the pulp they hate so much, only full of teenage angst and not nearly as fun to read, not to mention lacking the literary worth of actual pulp authors whom he often dismissed (like Howard).

    • JohnnyMac says:

      If you enjoy the wailing and gnashing of teeth that arise from the ranks of the self anointed literari at the mention of Tolkien’s name I would strongly recommend T. A. Shippey’s excellent book “J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century” (2002). Shippey devotes a most amusing chapter to this phenomenon.

      Mind you, if someone says they could not get into Tolkien I will just shrug and murmur “There is no accounting for taste.” (while thinking to myself: “You poor, blind bastard.”)

      The ones who really crank up my annoyance level are those who seem to have a compulsive need to rant about how Tolkien’s work is BAD and probably should not be allowed. Many of these so called critics never seem to have actually read the books. When they are forced to confront the fact of Tolkien’s enduring popularity and high status their shrill cries of anguish fall sweetly on my ears.

      After all, as the wise Conan has taught us, what is best in life? To see your enemies driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women. Or, in this case, perhaps their eunuchs.

  • Terry says:

    The person writing about the LSH misses it completely. He/she must be too young to remember it from the beginning. Being 60, I do, but perhaps I missed out on all the 90s permutations/reboots that went on.

    • Jeffro says:

      If you can work up a guest post that sets the record straight on the real Legion, I’d be glad to run it.

    • Terry Sanders says:

      Well, he was talking about lost “fandoms.” And having a fandom like that would explain a *lot* of th sheer weirdness that started up in the late snventies and enghties. sigh.

  • JD Cowan says:

    “In 1966, young people wanted meaningful answers”


    Boomers’ sixties worship is so disgusting.

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