Black Wings of Cthulhu 6

Low Res Scan: Black Wings of Cthulhu 6: Twenty-One New Tales of Loveraftian Horror, ed. S. T. Joshi, 2017, 2018

Cover by Gregory Nemec

It was perhaps for the best that this is the last of this series.

My initial negative opinions were mitigated after going back through the stories and making notes. Its weakness isn’t from one thing but a combination of “woke”, predictable, or non-weird stories.

No sorting by theme or literary aesthetic this time. I’m just going to sift the literary wheat from the chaff.

Darrell Schweitzer’s “The Girl in the Attic” was an unexpected disappointment. It’s a sequel to his earlier “The Red Witch of Chorazin” and part of a larger series centering around the very weird town of Chorazin, Pennsylvania. I wasn’t all that enthused by most of the earlier series’ installments. This one seems to involve a time loop involving the Red Witch.

The egregious designation goes to Lynne Jamneck’s “Oude Goden”, It’s a first person tale of a young lesbian in the Washington of the 1920s, and we hit all the expected cliches: violence against homosexuals, references to the Ku Klux Klan, a nonhuman entity being “intersex”, and, worst of all, the ending in which the narrator proclaims she can understand how the homosexuals of the area may have thought the world would be better under the Old Ones.

I know Joshi was very fond of the recently deceased William F. Nolan (whom I met once), but I’ve had mixed experiences to what little of his I’ve read. “Carnivorous” is well done but doesn’t go anywhere you don’t expect. A married couple takes a job tending the plants of an absent woman.  It comes with various bizarre instructions like singing to them on a schedule. There is an admonition to never go into a greenhouse. But the woman doesn’t return, supplies run low, and the husband goes in. I like sinister plant stories, but there’s nothing special here.

Continue reading

Half Past Human, or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax

There hasn’t been a lot of posting on this blog lately.

It’s not that I’ve been idle. I’m working on a new series of which over half is written, but I won’t post it until all the individual posts are written.

In the meantime, since bloggers MPorcius and Joachim Boaz were talking on Twitter about T. J. Bass’ science fiction novels , I thought I’d put up reviews of them.

Here’s the first. Joachim Boaz’s take is here.

Fletcher Vrendenburgh reviewed it over at Black Gate.

Raw Feed (1998): Half Past Human, T. J. Bass, 1971.

Half Past Human
Cover by Michael McInnerney

 This book belongs to a subgenre that includes Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, William F. Nolan’s and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run: the dystopic city dweller trying to flee – usually with a lover – into the country and into a better society. (George Orwell’s 1984 featured lovers finding no refuge from their urban hell. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World featured a rustic commenting on its world).

This novel’s strength is that it uses the devices and character types of all these novels. Moon is the rustic never part of the Hive, its sworn enemy. Tinker, like Logan, is an enforcer (or, at least, an enabler) of the dystopian order who finds itself on its bad side and throws his lot in with the five toed aborigines. Kaia the hunter, through a pharmacological accident, goes abo and likes it. Moses the Pipe Man also is attracted to the abo life.

Of course most novels with this plot have the loyal supporters of the status quo. Here those figures are the clever Val (who ends up an involuntary stud for five-toed genes to the “buckeyes”) and Walter, who is sympathetic to the buckeyes but feels he must do all he can as he waits for his soul to be taken by O.L.G.A. (The book is full of acronyms. This one is a spaceship.). Only Val is pretty consistently unlikeable. Continue reading

William F. Nolan’s Logan

This summer’s reading in preparation for Arcana was William F. Nolan’s Logan Trilogy. It was decidedly less time consuming than previous Arcana reading of Ambrose Bierce and Kathe Koja.

Logan’s Run and I go way back to 1977 when the Logan’s Run series was on tv. The young MarzAat was particularly impressed by the “Man Out of Time” which I see was written by Nolan and David Gerrold. However, it wasn’t that many years later I noticed its basic resemblance to T. L. Sherred’s “E for Effort” from 1948.

There is even a link to this blog’s name and Logan’s Run. The details would be boring to you and embarrassing to me.

However, it wasn’t until sometime in the 1980s I actually saw the movie and read Logan’s Run.

After we watched 1998’s Free Enterprise with its soon-to-be-30-years old hero dreaming of Logan, my wife told me the movie had a lot of fans.

I had no idea.

Low Res Scan: William F. Nolan’s Logan: A Trilogy, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, 1986.William F. Nolan's Logan

‘Cause I understand you’ve been running from the man

That goes by the name of the Sandman

— “Sandman”, America


It’s sex and drugs and a long party in the year 2072.

Sure, people still need jobs for a few hours a week. There’s those juvie punk scum hanging out in the Cathedral of Los Angeles. The occasional adult miscreant gets a trip on the Hellcar to an Arctic prison.

It’s kind of a short life though ’cause, when the crystal “flower” in your palm starts flashing, it’s Lastday, and you’d better shuffle off to the Re-Live center to replay the greatest hits of your life before heading off to the Sleepshop.

Of course, there’s always a few people who don’t play by the rules and try to make a run for life beyond 21. It’s the dedicated gunslingers of Deep Sleep, the Sandmen, who take care of that problem.

When the details fade from Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run fade, you remember the frenetic pace and the impressionistic prose.

Just after you read Nolan and Johnson’s two page dedication to various authors, books, radio shows, comics, and movies, you know you’re in for something different.

This omnibus is only 384 pages long, so there’s no lallygagging. These novels are peak prose delivery systems.

Sandman Logan starts out his day listening to some citizen nattering on his Lastday about how it all seemed to go rather quickly. But, but, he’s no runner scum!

Then, after he spends some unrewarding time in the hallucimill and stagroom, Logan’s off to waste one of those scums.

He’s been wondering when his lastday is and then finds out it’s today!

So, using some clues from the man he killed, Logan impulsively decides to look for the legendary Sanctuary for runners created by a man named Ballard.

And then we go on a careening narrative, enabled by a vast underground transportation network, that stays in North America. There’s the underwater city ruled by an AI, a crazy cyborg artist who has some lethal modeling sessions in mind for Logan and Jessica, the babe and fellow runner he picks up and bonds with via terror sex.

There’s a pass through a re-creation of the American Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg with robots.

And, warming my heart, three scenes set in South Dakota: a crèche outside of Rapid City, a vast computer system under the Crazy Horse Monument, and the ruins of Deadwood where, to escape the clutches of futuristic biker gang, Logan has to manfully — if painfully — pleasure six biker sluts and carve some flesh from Jessica.

Surely, the highest South Dakota content of any science fiction novel I’ve read! Maybe that’s because Nolan’s a Midwesterner from Kansas City.

That may account for making the teenager who started this whole don’t trust kill-anyone-over-21 business from Charleston, Missouri.

Throughout all this, Logan’s colleague and sort of friend, Francis, is in hot pursuit. And Logan knows Francis is smarter and tougher than he is.

Nolan, in this edition, puts in some of his own illustration for the novels.

He also has a long introduction detailing the genesis of his cultural hero, the man who runs from an authoritarian system. It started as an aside when he taught a class in science fiction at UCLA in 1963, and, from the beginning, 1967’s Logan’s Run was intended for the screen. Johnson assisted in writing the novel because selling a script based on an already existing novel was deemed easier.

Nolan talks about the life of his creation and its surprisingly varied spin offs as of 1986. (You can get a sense of that from the United Sandmen page.)

And Now I’ll Spoil the Rest of the Trilogy

You’d expect Logan’s World (1977) to be one of two things.

The brave runners who made it to Sanctuary, actually an abandoned space station off Mars, will return and liberate the people’s from Earth


The inhabitants of Argos station will create a new order in space.

Nolan does neither nor does he hit the reset button.

Logan returns to Earth six years after the events of Logan’s Run because the Sanctuary dream is dead. Ballard was unable to keep the supply ships coming and the colony died except for Logan, Jessica, and their son Jaq who return to Earth in a ship.

But, if Sanctuary is dead, so is the old order, brought down by Ballard in an heroic and suicidal act.

The creature comforts of the old days are gone. Society has collapsed, and ex-Sandmen run petty kingdoms and gangs.

This is a dark and nasty story in a dark and nasty world. Jaq is killed. Jessica is taken as a sex slave by one scavenger gang, the Borgia Riders.

Logan puts on the old Sandman uniform and straps on his Gun (and it’s always called the Gun because it has all sorts of interesting bullets and capabilities) to get Jessica back.

Logan can be pretty ruthless and vicious in the quest for his babe. This quest will again take him to South Dakota where ex-Sandman Gant has taken up in the ruins of the destroyed computer, the Thinker, that organized the old world.

Flashbacks to the youth of Logan 3, a bid of odd typography, and Logan showing his charisma when leading resistance to Gant’s plan get the Thinker running again follow

The novel ends with Gant dead and the Crazy Horse Monument trashed. Logan and Jessica will lead the Wilderness People in the Black Dakotas in creating a new order.

So you would expect Logan’s Search (1980) to describe the adventure in creating that new order.

Except it goes into a completely different and odd direction.

Oh, it starts out with the Wilderness People in Old Washington (presumably Washington D.C.). Jessica is pregnant again and another group of survivors offer to trade food for medical supplies left in Old Chicago.

Logan goes off to take a look.

And gets captured by aliens.

And they decide to send him to an alternate Earth where the “computerized death system” has stabilized due to some “dark force”. Our Logan is to go to that world, impersonate its Logan, and destroy that system.

And he’s got 14 days to do it or be trapped on that alternate Earth.

We got a little globe hopping in Logan’s World with flashbacks to young Logan, but we get a lot in the third novel: Africa, Moscow, Monte Carlo, Jamaica, and

Egypt where this world’s Francis and Logan are to be made gods — though there is a little trouble after Logan foolishly looks up this world’s Jessica and gets accused of dealing drugs. (In the first world, tobacco was on the forbidden list.)

And, of course, Logan trashes another world order.

And those aliens are kind of voyeuristic cenobites.

These books are fun and a very quick read. How many trilogies today can you casually burn through in five days?


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.


Breaking News! There’s another Logan story as of this year, “Logan’s Mission”. I suspect I may find it in the dealer’s room at Arcana.



After my less than enthusiastic review of EDGE’s Expiration Date, I feel like I’m kicking the company with my less than enthusiastic review of another of their offerings.

I don’t really have it out for the company. I liked their Technicolor Ultra Mall, my first ever commissioned review.

Still, it was a struggle to write this one up because so many of these stories were mediocre and unmemorable. By mediocre, I don’t mean bad or of unacceptable quality, just unremarkable. Unlike the stars of a recent podcast I listened to, I know by definition that the outputs of any profession, including that of writers, is going to be mediocre. (Assuming, as Mr. Taleb would note, the range of quality follows a Gaussian distribution.) You probably live in a house with mediocre plumbing with mediocre food in the refrigerator, but you’re not going to forsake either.

Still, I promised a review in exchange for this book from LibraryThing. I’m not going to skimp on coverage. As usual, everyone and everything will get covered.


So … let’s get this over with.

Review: nEvermore!: Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, eds. Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, 2015.nEvermore!

This anthology has an even more diffuse effect than Ellen Datlow’s Poe. Both allowed a variety of stories in, not all of a fantastic nature. Poe was a more protean author than generally realized. (A point Uwe Sommerland’s opening article, “A Rather Scholarly View of Edgar Allan Poe, Genre-Crosser“, makes well.) He wrote in a variety of tones and styles and more than just the macabre and mystery stories he is most remembered for.

The connection many of the stories have to Poe is not obvious apart from the authors’ foreword though some are quite explicit takeoffs on Poe’s work.

Lest you get bored, let’s start us with the best.

The razor-wielding orangutan of Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” gets to tell his side of things in Robert Lopresti’s “Street of the Dead House”. He’s one of those science experiments gone wrong. A large mansion on the shores of British Columbia, a large family, and a family secret are the heroine’s inheritance in Robert Bose’s effective “Atargatis”. An archaeologist’s involvement in a police investigation and a pagan cult result in the oh-so-Poe ending of burial alive in Michael Jecks’ “The Deave Lane”.

Loren Rhoads places her series heroine Alondra DeCourval in Venice to put a stop to a rash of suicides in “The Drowning City”. Tanith Lee’s “The Return of Berenice” ruminates on the follow up to Poe’s odd tale of obsession and dental horror, “Berenice” — moody and effective. Continue reading

The Future Is Now; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax


I was beginning to question my taste, my abilities as a “critic”.

Do I just like anything I read? Sure, I read slow and not as much as I like so I’m somewhat careful what I chose, but still …

The Future Is Now has reassured me that I have retained some powers of discernment. Its execrable collection of stories cleared my palate and reminded me what crap tastes like. Continue reading

“A War of Passion”, or The Tom Purdom Project, Part 4

If Purdom hadn’t said that this story was set in the same universe as Five Against Arlane and “Haggle Chips”, I wouldn’t have known. Granted there is the element of long-lived humans which is in those stories, but that has been and remains a Purdom fascination along with the wargame simulations mentioned here.

The trouble with this story is, while I know what Purdom was trying to explore, the details are too vague.

Protagonist Vostok is over 1,200 years old and assigned to seduce Larina Makaze. The why involves some political conflict between the normals and long-lived like Vostok on the planet Shuguro. The 268 year old Larina has been the blackmail tool of Hamanaka (a vaguely Japanese name along with Shuguro which, I assume, is Purdom’s suggestion the planet was settled by Japanese) who leads the faction of long-lived against the normals lead by David Fuchida.

Larina has been used for 37 years as a prostitute for men in “their middle hundreds” to rejuvenate their flagging sexual desire through whipping, chaining, caging, and humiliating her. Hamanaka seems to use what she discovers about these man as blackmail material against members of Fuchida’s faction. Her “last so-called lover” tortured her with laser shocks so she came to associate sex with pain.  (Why she didn’t make that connection before or why she went along with this for 37 years is unexplained.) Fuchida wants him to bring back joy to her sex, presumably for altruistic reasons or he’ll “start burning out memory cells” from her brain.

Fuchida also wants Vostok to prove that he’s temperamentally still with the world of recognizably human appetites. If he doesn’t, Fuchida will kill him and go to war against Hamanka’s fashion with the only “competent tactical brain” he has, Vostok’s, gone.The long-lived are, expectedly, a whole lot more ruthless and powerful and wealthier than the normals. They’ve “reduced their personalities to the presexual passions of survival and power.”

Vostok himself has, to keep up with improvements in human biology, had his head expanded to twice its original size and is 250 centimeters tall. Vostok, sexually quite practiced and adept, tells Larina to just relax and he’ll take over so they can prove to Fuchida their both normal enough. He even gives her an aphrodisiac thus bringing up the question, with them available, why the men of their middle hundreds need to abuse Larina to stay sexually interested though I’m sure there are men who do the same in our age of Viagra.

They both, as humans often do in Purdom stories, have some advanced degree of control over their nervous systems. While he’s trying to prolong Larina’s sexual pleasure, Vostok’s mind begins to wander. He thinks not only about his past, but, suspecting Fuchida’s men are even then surrounding the house and preparing to kill him out of suspicion, starts to run elaborate political, military, and economic simulations in his head. (He reminded me of the fascination the protagonist of Purdom’s “Fossil Games” also has for those sort of simulations.)

Angered by this distant, Larina suddenly rebuffs him. “You’re dead already. You’re a corpse,” she tells him in disgust. Vostok rapes her in a legal sense, forcibly penetrating her. She tries to cut off her pleasure centers but can’t. Alluding to the extreme caution and conservatism of the long-lived, he tells her

I’m risking my life. I should be manning my defenses. They may be attacking me right now. I’m risking eternity so we can both go on being human.”

The story ends with Vostok thinking they were both now fighting the only fight that mattered – the fight to stay human.  The last line is “He pressed her against the couch and held her while she writhed.”  Earlier in the story’s climax, “she shuddered”. But, in typical Purdom fashion, that “writhed” is an ambiguous word and could designate not some cliched tranformation of rape to erotic bliss but discomfort and pain and terror for Larina. It is only Vostok that makes the statement that what he is doing is a fight for both. Larina does not voice agreement.

It is another exploration of Purdom’s fascination with how advanced humans, able to control their biology, would deviate from us and whether that’s a good thing. It could also be viewed as a metaphor (though Purdom seems to eschew science fiction as a metaphorical tool) for a social split along generational lines, vitality and youth and poverty and ignorance and passion vs. wealth, cunning, and survival.

However, I still think the story is marred by vagueness in its setup. It is a clever and appropriate title for the story.

It appears in William F. Nolan’s anthology The Future Is Now which I will be reviewing shortly. Let’s just say I’ve been brushing up on the fine distinctions between the words “execrable” and “feculent”.


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.