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Sensor Sweep: Swords Against Darkness, Blue Star, Ian Fleming –

Sensor Sweep: Swords Against Darkness, Blue Star, Ian Fleming

Monday , 3, June 2024 Leave a comment

Fiction ( An oft-discussed, but seldom seen, short story written by a young Rod Serling has finally entered our dimension. Now available to read in the latest issue of The Strand Magazine, “First Squad, First Platoon,” is a semi-autobiographical tale based on The Twilight Zone creator’s harrowing experiences during Pacific combat in World War II. Told from multiple perspectives, the story follows a squad of American soldiers who are all killed in action while trying to reclaim the Philippine island of Leyte from Imperial Japanese forces. The only person left standing is one Corporal Rod Serling.

Cinema (Art of the Movies): Late night horror shows on TV arrived in the mid-1950s with hosts like Vampira, Morgus the Magnificent, and Tarantula Ghoul, and carried through until the dawn of the internet. Around the same time, sensational schlocky exploitation pictures aimed at a teen audience seeking cheap thrills became a staple of fleapits and drive-ins.

James Bond (Commando Bond): Recently, I was commissioned by Collector’s Elite Auctions to share the story of Walther’s P99, as in their inaugural auction, the very first Walther P99 ever to be commercially produced is available. It was a privilege to share one of my favorite stories. Republished here for your enjoyment.

Tolkien (Rip Jagger Dojo): I think it’s all too appropriate to wrap up my look into the works of J.R.R. Tolkien than to offer up Bilbo’s Last Song. Pauline Baynes was a British artist who famously illustrated both Tolkien’s and his Inkling ally C.S. Lewis’s Narnia works. Her work has a lightness and gentility which is well suited to these works of high imagination. She began to draw images of Middle-Earth in 1948 when she was contracted to illustrate Farmer Giles of Ham, one of Tolkien’s adult fairy stories.

Radio (Paper-Dragon): Vincent Price (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) was the third voice and final voice of The Saint radio program which ran from July 9, 1947 to October 14, 1951.

Crime Fiction (Rough Edges): I don’t recall which Perry Mason novel was the first in the series I read, but there’s a good chance it was in one of the short Pocket Books editions with Robert McGinnis covers, since they were all over during the early Sixties when I discovered Erle Stanley Gardner’s work.

Sword & Sorcery (Por Por Books): ‘Swords Against Darkness IV’ was published by low-budget paperback publisher Zebra Books in September, 1979. The cover art is by Luis Bermejo. I have to confess that, after reading ‘My Father the Pornographer’, Chris Offutt’s 2017 memoir about his father, every time I encounter a book authored or edited by Andrew J. Offutt my mind’s eye surveys things in the context of Offutt’s prodigious output of sleaze books.

Fantasy Cinema (Dark Worlds Quarterly): Readers of the 21st century have it pretty good. A big Epic Fantasy series appears in print, with many, many volumes and eventually it gets made into a series. The 20th Century reader could only have wished. We had to make due with Rankin/Bass’s The Hobbit and a half a Lord of the Rings cartoon from Ralph Bakshi. Mere suggestions of what was in the future.

Comic Books (Paperback Warrior): The first of the Curtis books was Savage Tales, published in May 1971 – complete with a John Buscema cover of Conan holding a severed human head. Publisher John Goodman (founder of Timely/Marvel) didn’t want to publish these types of books and insisted that Savage Tales cease publication after just one issue.

Grey Hawk (Grognardia): At the end of last week’s Retrospective on Greyhawk Wars, I promised I’d devote my next post in this series to taking a closer look at TSR’s early 1990s attempt to reinvent Gary Gygax’s World of Greyhawk setting for AD&D Second Edition. While Greyhawk Wars kicked off that reinvention by plunging the Flanaess into a fantastical “world war.”

Robert E. Howard/Edgar Rice Burroughs (Reactor Mag): Today, I’m looking at a pair of planetary romance books by two masters of adventure tales. The first book is by Robert E. Howard, famed creator of the barbarian Conan, and is one of the rare tales where he takes his protagonists to another planet rather than into the distant past. And the second book is by Edgar Rice Burroughs, equally famed creator of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and others, and is set beyond our own solar system, in a planetary system that seems tailored to provide non-stop adventure.

Comic Books (Paperback Warrior): In 2003, Dark Horse Comics launched their first Conan title after acquiring the rights to the character. Prior to the Dark Horse debut, Conan was featured prominently in Conan the Barbarian, Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the King, and Conan the Adventurer published by Marvel and Curtis. Dark Horse would later lose the character’s licensing in 2018, returning the Cimmerian hero back to Marvel. As of this writing, Titan now owns the rights.

Fantasy (Ken Lizzi): I’ve written before about Fletcher Pratt, incidentally referencing The Blue Star. But it has been years since I’ve read it. It is one of those books pilloried by the scolds and Mrs. Grundy’s who appear like a locust infestation from time to time in the speculative fiction field. Perhaps they have a point and I missed something on my previous read through. Time to find out.  The novel opens with the first half of one of those bookends we seldom get anymore but that used to be more common.

Art (Monsters & Manuals): The point here of course is that the type of person who develops AI art and is therefore ‘nerdy’ and ‘esoteric’ is likely to be the kind of person who has been hardened by many years of prolonged internet usage against any sort of geniune feeling, and has come to adopt the highly-arch, sardonic, sarcastic and cynical perspective within which any long-term internet user invariably comes to marianade.

Warhammer (Grimdark Magazine): In Blood Harvest, the latest Warhammer 40,000 short story release from Black Library, Conscript Mukta is hiding in a farming machine waiting to die, holding an old lasgun on an agri world being overrun by an unending horde of tyranids. With Richard Swan—a favourite author of mine from his Empire of the Wolf fantasy series and his brilliant The Art of War space opera series—as the latest big name fantasy author to join the Black Library stable, I was keen as mustard to get stuck into this tale.

RPG (Grumpy Wizard): A phrase commonly used in conversations about role-playing games is “genre emulation.” One might say that Call of Cthulu emulates Lovecraftian cosmic horror or Feng Shui emulates Hong Kong martial arts action films. Role-playing games do not emulate a genre. Role-playing games are one of many mediums that makes up a genre.

Review (Matthew J. Constantine): I read this once a long time ago, and I remember it being pretty good.  It’s a book intended for children, and has a sort of child-logic.  It’s not especially complex or deep, but I do enjoy its subversive nature.  Author L. Frank Baum introduces the book by spelling out how “children today” don’t want darkness, challenges, or moral questions.  They just want light and breezy entertainment, not meant to make them think.  Then he goes on to write a book that has some darkness, challenges, and moral questions.

Authors (Adventures Fantastic): Today, May 28, is the birthday of Ian Fleming (1908-1964). Fleming created the character of secret agent James Bond. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. James Bond was the ultimate Cold War spy. He was the seventh agent in the Double Oh series, so he was known as 007. That meant he had a license to kill. He used it like some people used their driver’s license.

Science Fiction (SFF Remembrance): The cast of “Time Safari” is a bit crowded, so I’ll get names out of the way first before we get into the action. You basically have the safari staff and the tourists, with the important members of the former being Henry Vickers, Our Hero™, and Don Washman, a helicopter pilot; for the tourists we have the McPhersons, who are siblings and whose first names I don’t think we even get.

Horror (Marzaat): The truth is I’m not, technically, working on any new posts since I have no backlog of books to review. But I will conclude my look at Paul McAuley with this, both a Raw Feed and Low Res Scan — because I had returned from a rare vacation and didn’t have the energy to catch up on making notes.

RPG (Tentaclii): A table-top RPG that ‘Lovecraft the Roman’ might have enjoyed, Cohors Cthulhu: Tabletop Roleplaying Game. “A 2d20 RPG adventure of mighty Roman warriors and their barbarian rivals fighting the forces of the Mythos”. Funded with a cool £221,000 and shipped in late 2023, and now with a new follow-on expansion-set Kickstarter. Although be warned that it seems to be as much about pagan forests as Roman army life…

Archaeology (Paul Whitewick): Is the RIDGEWAY really 5000 years old?

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