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February 18, 2019: Website updated and revised.

“Woe, Babylon Besieged” Lead Story In Lovecraftiana, Walpurgisnacht 2019 Issue

Woe, Babylon Cover

 

As mentioned in previous posts, this Lovecraft pastiche originally appeared in 2018 in the Danish extreme horror magazine Trigger Warnings. Despite the general prejudice against reprints, the editor at Lovecraftiana, The Magazine Of Eldritch Horror, thought well enough of the yarn to accept and print it as the lead story for the 2019 Walpurgisnacht issue. This is very flattering since Lovecraftiana is the premiere magazine today devoted to exploration of the Lovecraft ethos. It’s one of many worthy publishing endeavors from Rogue Planet Press. Like all other Lovecraftiana issues, this one has a terrific cover. It’s great to see my name and the story title on it. Please consider purchasing a copy:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/rogue-planet-press/lovecraftiana-walpurgisnacht-2019/paperback/product-24089170.html

https://www.facebook.com/pg/LovecraftianaMagazine/about/?ref=page_internal

https://horrifiedpress.wordpress.com/rogue-planet-press/

http://www.schlock.co.uk/pb/wp_ff24f549/wp_ff24f549.html

For those sticklers among you wondering about the meaning of Walpurgisnacht, it’s the night before the feast of St. Walpurga, an 8th century nun. The Eve is widely celebrated throughout Western Europe and occurs on either April 30 or May 1. Supposedly on the Eve, the powers of evil were at their strongest and witches often held their infernal sabbaths then. The date and the association with evil and witches make the feast sound to me as being suspiciously like Beltane, the Celtic festival that complemented Samhain on October 31 (which is coming up soon). This wouldn’t be the first example, however, of a pagan holiday being appropriated for Christian purposes, e.g., Christmas itself.

Sincerely, Cardinal Sin

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Just another bird of bill omen.

Sham Szukalski Study

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This is what comes from beholding the Protong for too long. You find yourself gone, around the bend, just like the strident Slavic sculptor Stanislaw Szukalski.

Seriously, the guy was mad as a hatter, but a genuinely brilliant artist. Anyone interested should check out and then buy the two books about the artist now out through Last Gasp:

https://lastgasp.com/collections/new-releases-2019/products/behold-the-protong

https://lastgasp.com/collections/new-releases-2019/products/struggle-the-art-of-szukalski

Bust Of Mr. Jaundiced

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Ho hum. Been there, done that. Don’t bother to ask his opinion; he’ll only yawn and stare at you. Just a nasty, petty jade.

“Sea Jackals Of Dubai” Now Out: Into The Ruins Issue No. 13, Summer 2019

 

ITR Cover

 

The previously discussed, long anticipated, lucky 13th issue of Into the Ruins is now out. This Summer 2019 issue comes as a 7″ x 10″ book packed with 106 pages of stories of a deindustrial future, an Editor’s Introduction, a letters to the editor section, and an essay by Karl North. Veering from high seas adventure (my own yarn, Sea Jackals Of Dubai) to a future academic treatise on the peculiar swimming habits of our industrial age, from the conclusion of Violet Bertelsen’s stellar novella, The Ghosts in Little Deer’s Grove, to the triumphs and challenges of a low-energy future lived down on the farm and out on the hunting grounds, the latest issue of Into the Ruins continues to present fascinating visions of our deindustrial future.

This is a beautifully laid out and published, small press, dystopian/apocalyptic SF magazine with a lot of careful attention to detail. Well worth checking out:

https://intotheruins.com/store/

https://payhip.com/b/vd1e

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1950213005/ref=as_li_qf_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=figurationp07-20&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1950213005&linkId=1a10e3c3254c0dfc2e678778ac4bef6a

Review: Soulless, The Case Against R. Kelly

I swear I have no idea what this guy's music sounds like.

I swear I have no idea what this guy sounds like.

Soulless, The Case Against R. Kelly, Jim DeRogatis, Abrams Press, 307 pp.

I’m mostly familiar with the author from his biography of Lester Bangs (my favorite rock critic in Creem back in the ’70’s) and other writing about rock’n’roll. Let me confess that, old, white fossil that I am, I don’t know anything about R. Kelly’s music. DeRogatis covered him, however, as part of his beat as the music critic on a Chicago newspaper. Hometown boy Kelly was a prominent part of DeRogatis’s coverage, a talented young man with a rough, downright dysfunctional upbringing who overcame that and other handicaps to become a huge, hitmaking machine in R&B music. Possessed of a knack for pop hits, Kelly blazed the charts for a phenomenal stretch of time (don’t ask me to recite any of the titles). All the while, despite the success and the constant media attention, ugly rumors dogged Kelly, stories about his predilection for underage women and bizarre menages in his luxurious homes.

DeRogatis may be nominally a music critic, but he considers himself first and foremost to be a journalist, dedicated in the best tradition of his craft to doggedly unearthing the truth no matter what the consequences. In direct, workmanlike prose that doesn’t distract from the story, DeRogatis tells the grim tale of his persistent, decades long effort to bring out the truth about R. Kelly and to see that he and  his victims were done justice.

Backed by his newspaper and ably supported by other journalists, DeRogatis hunted down witness after witness, most of them reluctant and unwilling at first to talk, who finally broke down and recounted grim stories of their miserable experiences with R. Kelly, a degenerate, abusive pervert if ever there was one. And all of this in the face of legal harassment on the part of Kelly’s  counsel, threats, subtle and otherwise, by Kelly’s minions, and having his door shot out one night in an obvious attempt at raw intimidation. Not one to be daunted despite his cherubic appearance, DeRogatis stuck to his guns and had the ultimate satisfaction of seeing R. Kelly’s elaborate fantasy world collapse and the Pied Piper (as Kelly liked to style himself) finally brought to justice.  As I write this review, Kelly is already enmeshed in serious criminal charges with more likely pending.

The recent exposure of Providence only knows how many prominent men as despicable sex pigs (Weinstein, Epstein, Louis C.K., Cosby, the list is really long) is dismaying, but predictable. Give a man power and wealth and it frequently goes directly to his crotch instead of to his head. I don’t mean this as a knock against pop stars, but more against rich people in general. I seriously think that any guy with a net worth of more than $10 million should be followed constantly by a police officer just to make sure he behaves himself and keeps it in his pants. You might call that socialism; I call it a necessary measure for a better society.

This book is tough to read in many respects since it features accounts by victims of the miserable things that Kelly did to them, to include his need to control their every movement as if they were his toy dolls, and the damage and trauma he inflicted upon them. If you have the stomach for it, I recommend it as an excellent example of the good that journalism can still do, even in our current, miserably degraded circumstances. Thanks to DeRogatis and many others, R. Kelly isn’t able to ruin any more young women’s lives.

http://jimdero.com/

Lino the Lizard Loan Shark

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(Please note the pinkie ring.)

LINO:  “I’m telling you, it’s not the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”

TONY:  “Do you believe this reptile?”

PAULIE:  “Now hold on, T. Maybe Lino’s got a point there.”

The Hickoids At The Black Cat, 04 AUG

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The only reason I heard tell about these jaspers playing was the fact Sean Epstein hipped me to the upcoming show. Legendary Texas wildman band the Hickoids sure enough lived up to their rep, playing crazy, stomping, twin guitar rock’n’roll done cowhand shitkicker style: thundering riffs, screaming vocals, and discordant, dueling leads. One big highlight was their blood and thunder cover of Benny And The Jets. The gig was held at the Black Cat’s tiny, new Red Room bar, immediately adjacent to the main hall on the second floor (the dank and cramped basement has been rented out to retail, another sign of increasing 14th Street gentrification). It was weird since only the bar was air conditioned in the dead of a DC summer and the rest of the place (to include the men’s room) was a hot, humid, airless mess.

This was probably one of the best rock’n’roll shows in DC this year and maybe, like what, twenty people showed up, all or most friends of Sean. Granted, it’s August, colleges are out and people are on vacation, but that’s still indisputable evidence what a boring, square town DC is. I managed to be the lucky duck that snatched their poster down from the wall, hence the scan above. I tucked it away in my gaudy cowboy shirt. From the men’s room, I heard someone outside sigh in disappointment  when he realized the trophy had been taken away from him. Ha ha. Ain’t bragging if you done it.

The Hickoids have been around for about 35 years by their own admission and are a fixture on the Austin rock scene. They give their music that real Texas try (full bore, no let up), are funny as hell (another Texas trait), and I hope they play for 35 more years. Everyone of you that reads this should see them if they’re in your town or within a radius of five hundred miles or so. They’ve got a new double album out, All the World’s A Dressing Room: Live In L.A. 08.24.2018.  Run out and buy it. Or better yet, save yourself some stress and click the second link below with one of those little old piggies of yours.

http://www.hickoids.com/

https://hickoids.bandcamp.com/album/all-the-worlds-a-dressing-room-live-in-l-a-08242018

Lost To The West – A Lively, Readable Account of Byzantine History

byzantineLars Brownworth, 304 pp., Three Rivers Press.

My interest in the Byzantine Empire was piqued by the 11th Century chronicles of Michael Psellus (see the review in a previous post), so I ordered this relatively short, recent history of the Empire’s history from the founding of Constantinople by the eponymous Illyrian badass and ardent Christian convert, Constantine the Great, to the fall of the city in 1453, her mighty walls shattered by enormous Ottoman cannon. This is a lot of material to cover and the author does so briskly while also being careful to be thorough and accurately sourced. The back jacket of the book states that Mr. Brownworth is a former high school history teacher, but he shows as much flair for writing popular, accessible history as many other, more highly accredited authors.

Like all empires from Rome onward, there is a large focus in the book on the Byzantine emperors and their personalities, an unavoidable consequence of studying any autocracy where everything (at least supposedly) turns on the word of just one man. A parade of characters passes down through the long ages, some outstanding, many contemptible, and a great deal utterly mediocre. Brownsworth makes the interesting point that as long as an emperor was strong and knew how to organize the empire’s resources (with special emphasis on the broad, fertile Anatolian plain), the Byzantines flourished or, at least, held their own. This was a remarkable feat in light of the constant series of threats posed to the empire over centuries, beset from all sides, Persians, Slavs, Bulgars, Crusaders, Arabs, and worst of all and finally, the Ottoman Turks. It was only when the Byzantines were deprived of Anatolia by the Turks that the empire truly began to falter and at last fail.

The author notes that while Western Europe was plunged into illiteracy and Frankish kings lived little better than peasants, learning and luxury still flourished in Constantinople and the empire’s other great cities. He points out that for centuries the Byzantine Empire acted as a buffer for Western Europe, a bulwark between the weak, disorganized feudal realms and the rampant forces of Islam. Much learning was gained by the West from the Byzantines, especially after the fall of Constantinople when many Greek scholars fled to Italy seeking patronage from the Pope among others. This history does a valuable service in filling in a large gap in the general picture of medieval European history.

I think the most valuable thing to be gained from this book is a sense of the remarkable strength of the Byzantine polity. Located in the very cockpit of empire, prone to invasion by land and sea from all directions, attacked by powerful enemies almost from the beginning, and riven by dissension (religious and otherwise), treachery, and disloyalty, Constantinople and its empire still managed to somehow persist in a distinctly recognizable form for over a thousand years. And when the end came, the last emperor (also named Constantine) died fighting in the breached walls for his city and his people, a true medieval paladin.

I recommend this book to fans of medieval history and to anyone interested in a good account of a very strange and alien, long passed civilization and culture whose echoes still loudly sound today.

https://www.amazon.com/Lost-West-Forgotten-Byzantine-Civilization/dp/0307407969/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Lost+To+the+west&qid=1564704014&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Alexander the Great as Zeus-Ammon

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At the Oasis of Siwa, after a dangerous trek across the desert that almost killed him and his entourage, it was revealed unto Alexander by the high priest of Amun that his true father was not Phillip of Macedon, but Zeus-Ammon, the almighty deity graced with curved ram’s horns in token of his puissant omnipotence. And so Alexander donned the regalia of Zeus-Ammon to acknowledge his glorious lineage.

Όλα χαλάζι, ο Δίας Άμμων!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeus