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Jul 31

Cocktail Hour: The Esper

Posted on Friday, July 31, 2015 in Books, Cocktail Hour

The Esper: Not for amateur telepaths... or amateur drinkers.

I discovered Alfred Bester my freshman year of college while reading an anthology of classic science fiction.

His story “Fondly Fahrenheit” opened with a child murder at the hands of a homicidal android, placing it light years apart from the more optimistic Golden Age tales that preceded it in the book. It was also noteworthy because the narrator slipped between the use of “I,” “me” and “we” to describe his actions, an effective experimental touch that suggested the android and its human owner were slipping into shared psychosis..

On the strength of that first impression, I soon plowed through Bester’s The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination. Those novels’ cynical outlook and crisp prose resonated with me as I immersed myself in the cutting-edge (at the time) cyberpunk of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Turns out, both cite Bester as a major influence, as did scads of other boundary-pushing cyberpunk and New Wave authors.

Beyond being a writer ahead of his time, Bester was a drinker. Legend has it he left his entire estate to his bartender, Joe Suder. What’s more, robot bartenders and cocktail parties feature heavily in his fiction, and I stumbled across no shortage of printed interviews he gave at convention bars over pitchers of beer.

In other words, Alfie Bester is the perfect inspiration for a cocktail.

Today’s, THE ESPER, borrows its name from the telepaths in Bester’s The Demolished Man, whose extrasensory perception makes murder near impossible in the 24th Century.

I based this concoction on the similarly named Vesper, created by James Bond author Ian Fleming in Casino Royale. Fleming’s cocktail combines gin, vodka and Lillet, a wine-based French aperitif. In the case of THE ESPER, I substituted absinthe for the vodka, because… well, let’s just say I’ve had more than a few extrasensory experiences courtesy of la fée verte.

I recommend one ESPER, only one, before dinner — or while reading Alfred Bester. Careful, this one’s boozy, boozy, boozy.

THE ESPER

3 oz. gin
1 oz. absinthe
1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
A thin slice of lemon

 

Shake the ingredients with ice in a shaker, then pour into a chilled martini glass or champagne goblet. Add the lemon slice.

 



Jul 30

Forgotten Book: Slaves of Sleep by L. Ron Hubbard (1939)

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2015 in Books, Forgotten Book

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 152nd in my series of Forgotten Books.

There was a time when Ron Hubbard was considered a very good writer of science fiction, fantasy, western, adventure and other types of pulp fiction. Then came the Dianetics and Scientology works and he entered into the religious field. Regardless of your opinions of his later efforts, his early writings contain some fine work.

I first read SLAVES OF SLEEP about 20 years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. The other day I was looking for a new Forgotten Book and this one jumped up and said “ME! ME! ME!”

Never being one to refuse a book screaming to be read, I picked it up again. Instantly, I was back in its thrall. Jan Palmer is a young man who has a problem. He’s the head of a transportation company worth a lot of money and he has no interest in it at all. The business is run by his lawyer and business manager. Jan likes his books, boats and other stuff. He lives with his Aunt Ethel who respects the local mutts more than Jan.

When visited by Professor Frobish, Jan finds himself with a problem. Frobish recognizes a large brass jar in Jan’s home as a sealed bottle containing an Ifrit, a type of genii. Jan refuses to let Frobish examine the bottle, so Frobish breaks into Jan’s home at night and breaks the seal on the bottle, releasing the Ifrit, one Zongri. Zongri has been imprisoned for many thousands of years. At first, he promised himself that he would reward anyone who released him with incalculable riches. Then he promises revenge on the human race. Zongri kills Professor Frobish and curses Jan to a life of eternal wakefulness. When the police arrive, Jan’s story is met with derision and he finds himself facing murder charges. Unwilling to lie, he is universally despised.

The problems really escalate when he tries to sleep. Suddenly, Jan finds himself in a fantasy world where Ifrits flourish and he is known as a sailor named Tiger. He is in trouble in both worlds, facing certain death in either one. People from his Earth world seem to be prevalent in some form in the fantasy world. Living in both worlds, he gets no rest and is running ragged in both.

It’s not a great novel or an important one, but it is fun. Some of the characters are stereotypes but I found I could not stop reading and enjoying it. The paperback I was reading reprinted some of Edd Cartier’s illustrations from UNKNOWN magazine which are quite fun.

If this sounds like fun, check it out. There was a hardcover edition from Shasta Publications with a striking Hannes Bok cover. There is also a sequel MASTERS OF SLEEP which I have not read and cannot comment on. SLAVES has had several paperback editions, some in combination with the sequel.  You might also check out THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING, AND THE UNKNOWN by Paul Malmont which features Hubbard in a World War II adventure with Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and L. Sprague de Camp.  It was quite a bit of fun, too.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jul 28

Forgotten Films: Zombies on Broadway (1945)

Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 in Forgotten Movie, Movies

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 128th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Welcome back, my friends, these shows never end. Or never seem to. This week we have a comedy from 1945 starring Wally Brown as Jerry Miles and Alan Carney as Mike Strager as a couple of press agents working for Ace Miller (Sheldon Leonard), a semi-retired gangster who is opening a new night club called The Zombie Hut in New York. Jerry and Mike have promoted the club as having a “real, authentic zombie” for opening night and local radio personality Douglas Walker (Louis Jean Heydt), who has it in for Ace, is calling the bluff and threatening fraud.

Jerry and Mike find themselves in a pickle and on a boat to San Sebastian to find Professor Renault (Bela Lugosi) who has been working with zombies. If they fail to produce a genuine zombie, they will commit “suicide” with the help of Ace and his men.

In San Sebastian they meet up with Jean La Dance (Anne Jeffries) who is a nightclub singer and knife thrower who wants to get off the island with their help. As they look for a zombie and the professor, they encounter voodoo ceremonies and run afoul of the participants. Anne is captured by a zombie commanded by Renault who is trying to create zombies via a scientific method with no success. When Jerry and Mike arrive on the scene, Renault hopes to use them for his experiments. Mike proves susceptible to the serum Renault has created.

Brown and Carney are a second rate Abbott and Costello and their routines seem tired and tiring.  Anne Jeffries and Bela Lugosi are the class of the film and are pretty well wasted here. The most saving grace of the film is that it is short. The small monkey that appears about 2/3 of the way in steals much of the last half of the film.

IMDB and Wikipedia indicate that several of the sets and actors appear to be from I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, the 1943 Jacques Tourneur film. I have not seen that film in a while so I can’t vouch for that.

The film was profitable and led to GENIUS AT WORK, one more Brown and Carney film with Jeffries and Lugosi in 1946. Overall Brown and Carney made nine or so films together. They were never Abbott and Costello.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Jul 27

Armadillocon wrap-up: Where’d all these durned San Antonians come from?

Posted on Monday, July 27, 2015 in Books, Conventions, Speculative San Antonio

$5 if you can spot the San Antonian at the Montreal in '17 room party.

Writing blog entries about recent cons is tough. Mainly, I worry I’ll forget to mention the names of the fascinating people I drank with, who said smart stuff on panels or whose readings really floored me.

So in the interest of not driving myself crazy trying to remember every person I owe a mention from last weekend’s Armadillocon, let me just say this: It was good to see all of you. You’re a great bunch — talented, smart, entertaining and, for the most part, friendly and inviting.

Instead of the usual laundry list, I’d rather give a collective shout-out to all the San Antonians who attended. If I’m not mistaken, this year’s show boasted the biggest Alamo City contingent I’ve yet seen at the con. And that’s invigorating for me, because our city — while rich in character and history — often lives in the creative shadow of hipper, more-affluent places like Austin and Dallas.

My fellow blogger Scott A. Cupp was there, as usual, slinging books at Willie Siros’ table, but it was a delight to see Max Booth III and Lori Michelle of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Dark Moon Digest also haunting the dealer’s room. It was hard to miss John Picacio’s amazing display of Game of Thrones prints, but how cool was it that fellow illustrator Sherlock also had an hour-long program on how to draw dragons? And was anybody else impressed with New Braunfels’ Jayme Lynn Blaschke moderating the panel on spirituality in sf/fantasy/horror, maintaining a civil tone as atheists and people of faith hashed out some prickly questions?

Cool stuff, all.

During the con, I got to spend quality bar time with K.B. Rylander, fresh off her win of the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award (read her winning “We Fly” here), and with fan/writer/raconteur Clayton Hackett. I saw the familiar faces of San Antonio Writers Guild stalwarts James and Doris Frazar and Stewart Smith during my reading, and I caught up with power couple Scott and Sara Cooper during the autograph session. I spent a little time (too little, sadly) talking Chupacabra poetry with South Texans Dr. Malia A. Perez and Juan Manuel Perez. And, as things wound down Saturday, I ran into Eugene Fischer, a sometimes-San Antonian who helped develop the sf track at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

And then there were the new Alamo City faces — or new to me, anyway. I broke bread (literally, we were served an entire loaf at Black’s BBQ) with Justin Landon, a Hugo-nominated editor, podcaster and blogger for Tor.com, and I panelized with YA author Peni Griffin. A pleasure to meet you both. I hope we cross paths again soon.

Viva Armadillocon! Viva San Antonio!



Jul 24

Cocktail Hour: The Scarlet Gospel

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2015 in Books, Cocktail Hour

Today, I’m debuting a regular feature in which I’ll highlight a science fiction-, fantasy- or horror-themed cocktail and discuss its inspiration. Today’s drink is an appropriately hued gin concoction themed around the recent release of Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels.

Barker’s first adult horror novel since 2001, The Scarlet Gospels is essentially a hard-boiled version of Paradise Lost. It matches Harry D’Amour, the private-eye demon hunter who first appeared in “The Last Illusion,” against Pinhead, the lead Cenobite from “The Hellbound Heart,” the novella that launched the “Hellraiser” franchise.

Those expecting the kind of skin-crawling horror Barker executed so well in “The Hellbound Heart” and his groundbreaking Books of Blood will likely be disappointed. Sure, there’s plenty of trademark viscera and lush language. One expects that as the characters trek through through Hell in search of Lucifer, who’s pulled a Howard Hughes-style disappearing act. But missing is the sense of creeping dread that made “The Hellbound Heart” such a compelling read in the first place.

That said, The Scarlet Gospels still succeeds as dark fantasy. Barker’s prose is vivid, even if stripped down compared to his earlier work. The opening scene, in which Pinhead dispatches the last of the world’s great magicians, is alone worth the price of admission. During the course of the novel, Barker does a superb job at making us care about both the dedicated and loyal Harry and the immortal and world-weary Pinhead, even as the demon exacts cruelty after cruelty.

The book’s namesake cocktail combines gin with Cynar, a bitter Italian aperitif made from artichokes. Beyond its color, I chose Cynar because we learn during the course of The Scarlet Gospels that Pinhead isn’t only a ruthless sadist but a rather bitter fellow. Among his many grievances: the hardware store-inspired nickname with which he’s been saddled. The cocktail’s use of blood orange, aside from deepening its red color, provides sweet and sour citrus notes as a foil for the Cynar’s bitterness.

Enjoy.

The Scarlet Gospel

1 oz. gin
1 oz. Cynar
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup

Shake the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and drain into a coupe glass. Serve ice cold.

 



Jul 23

Forgotten Book: Rivers of London (U.S. Title: Midnight Riot) by Ben Aaronovitch (2011)

Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2015 in Books, Forgotten Book

Beware: a book pusher may try to turn you on to this highly addictive tome.

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 151st in my series of Forgotten Books.

Between 2011 and 2014 I wrote a regular (sort of) weekly column on Forgotten Books at the Missions Unknown blog. In early 2014 the blog died an ugly death when something destroyed itand, to date, it has not been revived. The books and movies I reviewed there are no longer accessible, except with some deep digging on the internet archive.  Even then, some reviews are still incomplete. So, if you enjoyed those reviews, keep coming back here for another weekly installment of regular Forgotten Books and Forgotten Films. This weeks’s column features a recent favorite.

I love it when science fiction and fantasy cross over into the world of mysteries and vice versa. It happens a lot and when it is good, the results are spectacular and when it is bad, it gets shoved in my face by those who do not like such pollution in their ponds of choice.

This week, we will talk about a good one. As many of you know, I work with a book pusher. Oh, he can be nice and even taken out in public. But when we get into dark alleys, he pulls back the shades and shows me the good stuff. I see lots of it and, like the poor suffering addict that I am, Ibuy a lot of it,  I get science fiction, mystery, and fantasy from him. Sometimes I get romances and non-fiction or art books or bibliographies. His insidiousness knows no boundaries. When we talk on the phone he always has something to tempt me with.

The other day the conversation went something like this – “Hey, man. You got the stuff?”

“Yeah, but I got something new. A kind of London fog. You’re gonna love it.”

“No, I need the good stuff I already know. Nothing new or dangerous.”

“But this one is different. Try to imagine if Harry Potter never went to Hogwarts and instead became a London policeman whose training was leading him to be a file clerk, but he sees a corpse and a ghost and suddenly finds himself in the mystic arts division of the London Police Force and has to learn magic and talk to rivers and solve the murders.”

“OK, give it to me.” He knows a sucker when he sees one. “Oh,” he says, “there are three other books in the series. They have British first editions which are already getting pricy but there are paperback editions.”

Suddenly I have three new trade paperbacks in the house and a hardback flying in from the UK. On a whim, I pick up the first one and it is good.  It is better than good.  The incoherent babbling description above is accurate. Peter Grant, a probationary policeman and son of a London jazz musician, finds a body outside Covent Garden one night. Upon reviewing the area, he meets a ghost who discusses the crime with him. He mentions this fact and suddenly finds himself in a secret section of the London police, working with a wizard named. Nightingale in an odd house with an odder housekeeper who may be a vampire or may not.

He finds himself involved in a dispute between Father Thames and Mother Thames over territorial rights of the river within London proper. He meets their progeny and finds himself attracted to one of Mother Thames’ daughter, Beverly Brook, and at odds with another one, Tyburn. He quickly discovers that diplomacy is not his style and having a river mad at you is not desirable.

This was quite an enjoyable read and one with lots of twists and turns. It made me want to open up the next one. So far, I have resisted but I am sure I will weaken soon.

The US edition is called MIDNIGHT RIOT, a title I do not like, but RIVERS OF LONDON alsodoes not conjure up terms like “excellent fantasy/mystery.” There are copies around at the usual suspects, but, as mentioned above, hardcover first editions are not currently cheap so be forewarned.

As usual with such crossover thingies, your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance for lots of things. As my wife frequently tells me, all my taste is in my mouth.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.



Jul 22

Countdown to Armadillocon

Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s almost time, sports fans.

This weekend, I’ll be participating — along with a ton of other Texas speculative fiction writers, artists, editors and fans — in the 37nd annual ArmadilloCon in Austin.

Guests this year include Ken Liu, James Morrow, L. Timmel Duchamp, John DeNardo, Stina Leicht and Rocky Kelley. San Antonio is well represented with John Picacio, Scott A. Cupp, Peni Griffin, Justin Landon, Juan Manuel Perez, Sherlock, K.B. Rylander and myself in attendance.

The convention runs Friday, July 24, through Sunday, July 26, at the Omni Southpark hotel, 4140 Governors Row. If you’re there, come say “Howdy,” as Texans are wont to do.

Here’s what my schedule looks like:

Reading: “Rattlebone Express”
Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Conference Center

Panel: The Art of the Short Story
Friday, 8 p.m. w/ Lou Antonelli, Matthew Bey, Peni Griffin, Julia Mandala and Susan Wade
Ballroom E

Panel: SF TV Shows We’re Anticipating
Friday, 9 p.m. w/ Rick Klaw, Bill Frank, Gloria Oliver and Josh Rountree
Ballroom F

Panel: What Sciences Haven’t Been Used
Saturday, 10 a.m. w/ William Ledbetter, John Moore, Adrian Simmons and Caroline M. Yoachim
Conference Center

Autographing
Saturday, 5 p.m. w/ Matthew Bey, Lillian Stewart Carl, Scott A. Cupp, Henry Melton and Patrice Sarath
Dealer’s Room

Panel: Food in SF
Saturday, 8 p.m. w/ Steven Brust, Julia Mandala, Sherlock and Skyler White
Ballroom F



Jul 21

Forgotten Films: Invisible Invaders (1959)

Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

Who wouldn't want to witness a war-to-the-death of all civilization?

Review by Scott A. Cupp

This is the 127th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Between 2011 and 2014 I produced a regular (mostly) weekly column of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films as part of the Missions Unknown blog and as a part of a loose gathering of writers and fans coordinated by Todd Mason (there should be a link at the end of the review).

But the Missions Unknown blog got hit with some form of ebola or other disease and has not been revived for more than a year. I loved doing these reviews and inflicting my weird thoughts on folks so when Sanford Allen asked me to continue them, I was ready to continue. So check here each week for cinematic wonders and horrors alike.

That said, let’s go a film I saw as a child and had fond memories of – INVISIBLE INVADERS. The film starts with an annoying voiceover about nuclear experimentation and a quick explosion which kills Dr. Karol Noymann (John Carradine). His friend, Dr. Adam Penner (Phillip Tonge) decides to renounce the nuclear experiments. After giving Noymann’s eulogy, he is visited by the animated corpse of Noymann, possessed by invisible aliens from the moon. They have hidden bases on the moon and have decided Mankind is a pestilence and gives the Earth 24 hours to surrender or be destroyed. They plan a mass invasion to annihilate all Earth life. They have bases on the moon hidden by invisibility.

Earth, being what it is, decides not to surrender on the basis of one man’s word, no matter how renowned. When no surrender comes, the invaders animate corpses and attack the living. Their blank stares and zombie walk would make Tor Johnson proud. When the destruction starts, the Army assigns Major Jay Bruce (John Agar) to assist Penner, his daughter Phyllis (Jean Byron), and co-worker Dr. John Lamont (Robert Hutton). John Agar is his usual semi-wooden self as the military man out to help scientists solve the invasion problem,

It’s not an awful movie. It’s just not good. Script and acting are weak. Special effect rival early Dr. Who for crudity. Many shots just use stock footage. The music overpowers several scenes with terrible results. And that annoying voice over keeps on coming, telling us the story rather than having the script and actors show us the story.

But it appears that it might have had an effect on George Romero as several Night of the Living Dead shots seem to echo scenes from this film. Could be coincidence, but I wonder.

Some of the logic of the film seems to belong to current political debates, with as much logic. The invaders are portrayed with drag marks through sand. Overall, it’s just a mess. Fortunately, at 67 minutes, it’s not an interminable mess. It just seems that way. Watch at your own risk.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

 



Aug 28

LoneStarCon 3 and Rayguns Over Texas

Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

For those of you attending LoneStarCon 3 (a.k.a. WorldCon) in San Antonio this week, here’s my schedule. Please drop by and give me a good ol’ Texas “howdy.”

I’m particularly excited to be participating in the launch events for Rayguns Over Texas, a new FACT-published anthology of Texas science fiction which includes my story “Pet Rock.” Be sure and check out my interview with the book’s editor, Rick Klaw, over at the Missions Unknown blog.

Texas Roadhouse Blues: Speculative Fiction and Rock and Roll
Thursday 3-4 p.m. w/ Bradley Denton, Peggy J. Hailey and Josh Rountree
Convention Center: 006A

Rayguns Over Texas launch event
Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m. w/ Rick Klaw, Josh Rountree, Stina Leicht, Joe R. Lansdale, Scott Cupp, Rhonda Eudaly Simpson, etc.
San Antonio Public Library, Downtown

Music and Science Fiction
Friday 2-3 p.m. w/ Vincent Docherty, Catherine Asaro, Lauran Schiller and H.G. Stratmann
Convention Center: 102A

How SF Fandom Made the Sixties Happen: Origin of Rock Journalism
Friday 5-6 p.m. w/ Christopher J. Garcia, Jason Heller, Mike Ward and David G. Hartwell
Convention Center: 007B

Writing about Music and Art
Saturday Noon-1 p.m.
Diana G. Gallagher, Leslie Fish , Tanya Huff and Seanan McGuire
Rivercenter: Conference 12

Autographing session
Saturday 2-3 p.m.
Convention Center: Exhibit A

Rayguns Over Texas Group Reading & Signing
Saturday 5-7 p.m.
Convention Center: 007A
w/ Rick Klaw, Josh Rountree, Stina Leicht, Chris N. Brown, Don Webb, Derek Johnson, Jessica Reisman, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Rhonda Eudaly, Matthew Bey, Scott A. Cupp, Mark Finn, Nicky Drayden, Rocky Kelley, and possibly others.



Oct 10

Doubling Down with Joe McKinney

Posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

JournalStone's Double Down series will feature two novels packaged together like this old Ace Double.

I learned a new term yesterday: dos-à-dos.

Dos-à-dos, it turns out, is the fancy French term for two separate books bound together at the spine, kind of like those old Ace Double sf paperbacks.

I learned the term because JournalStone Publishing is bringing back the format through its new Double Down series — and I’m one of a dozen authors participating in the launch.

Each Double Down book will feature a short novel from an already established author paired with a separate short novel from an up-and-coming writer (that’s where I come in). Rather than focus on sf like the Ace books, this series’ emphasis is on horror.

I’m thrilled to be paired with Stoker Award-winning scribe Joe McKinney, who I’ve known for a few years through the Alamo City-based writing group Drafthouse. Joe’s got a brisk, action-focused style that keeps the pages turning — whether he’s writing about zombies, deadly fire ants or mutated meth-heads. His day job as a San Antonio cop brings an unmistakable grit and authenticity to his work.

Our book is scheduled to hit the shelves in summer 2013.

The rest of Double Down’s lineup includes Gene O’Neill with Chris Mars, Gord Rollo with Rena Mason, Lisa Morton with Eric Guignard, Harry Shannon with Brett Talley and Jonathan Maberry with a writer yet to be named.

I’m honored to be working with Joe, who I’m sure would have had plenty of other willing takers for this project, and I’m excited to publish in a series alongside such talented luminaries and up-and-comers.

Of couse, I’m also thankful for editor Christopher C. Payne’s JournalStone for resurrecting the old doubles concept… and teaching me a high-fallutin’ new term.

I feel smarter already.