Monday, May 30, 2011

Appendix N: Leigh Brackett's "The Halfling and Other Stories"

While I have immensely enjoyed Leigh Brackett, and will undoubtedly read more from her, this will be the last of my Leigh Brackett Appendix N entries for a while. I am feeling the need to move further down my reading list of Anderson to Zelazny.

I found my copy of this book in a used book store, and while I have seen it for sale on-line, I encourage you to haunt your local used book stores first, as I firmly believe in supporting local owned businesses.

As far as I know, this book and many of the stories contained within it are out of print.

My copy is dog eared, beaten up, stained with loose pages. Luckily, it is intact and I only paid $1. It is a paperback first Ace Books printing from 1973. I was unable to confirm who the cover art was by, any information on this would be appreciated. There was a second Ace printing done in 1983 which has cover art cited to Mel Odom.

It contains the following stories: "The Halfling", "The Dancing Girl of Ganymede", "The Citadel of Lost Ages", "All the Colors of the Rainbow", "The Shadows", "Enchantress of Venus", "The Lake of the Gone Forever" and "The Truants". Strangely, "The Truants" is not included in the table of contents, nor is any first printing information provided for it in the Acknowledgements section. I was able to find said information with minimal research.

"The Halfling" being the title story, was the first in the collection. It first appeared in Astonishing Stories, 1943. While it was not my favourite story in the collection, it showcased Brackett's ability to write across genres as it was a science fiction story, but had a definite hard boiled noire feel to it. Halflings in Brackett's universe are not the happy hobbits found in Tolkien's world. In Brackett's stories, a halfling is a creature that is half human and half something else. It is a concept seen in her novel The Sword of Rhiannon, and to a lesser extent, her Skaith novels as well. It is a concept that I find intriguing, and I am considering adopting it into my own D&D universe; perhaps retiring the happy hobbits of "Tolkienville".

"The Dancing Girl of Ganymede" first appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1950. This story was a striking cross between C.L. Moore's "Shambleau" and Philip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Interestingly enough, C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith story was published in Weird Tales in 1933, while Androids was not published until 1968. I wonder if Moore's story influenced Brackett, and consequently, Brackett influenced Dick? Honestly, I am not enough of a scholar on any of the three to say with any certainty. I draw connections between these three as a casual reader. I point out a connection to Catherine Moore as "Dancing Girl" shares a plot structure used to a large extent (perhaps too large of an extent) by Moore in her Northwest Smith stories; that being "Boy meets Girl, Girl turns out to be far more then Boy anticipated". I only use "Shambleau" as an example as it was the first to pop into my head by Moore; actually, any number of her Smith stories would work nicely. As to the connection to Philip K. Dick, there is a theme shared in both "Dancing Girl" and "Androids", "Man vs. Machine, and the rights of said machines".

"The Citadel of Lost Ages" first appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1950. This story reminded me of a novel by Henry Kuttner, The Dark World, published 1946. Thematically both are similar, but my connection may be born of the fact that I read The Dark World not too long ago.

"All the Colors of the Rainbow", Venture Science Fiction, 1957. This story stood out for me the most in the entire collection. Here Brackett tackles racism as only a science fiction writer can. I found it, interesting, sad and still (sadly) relevant.

"The Shadows", Startling Stories, 1952. This was a straight up "bug-hunt"; although in this case the "bugs" were shadows. It contained the most interesting quote in the collection: "We aren't welcome in the universe. I don't know why. Maybe it's because we're not content to be the animals we are, but must always be pretending that we're something else, prying about and upsetting things, grasping after stars, making trouble and screaming because it hurts. I don't know. I only know that we are hated. Everywhere I've been, everywhere there was a man, they've been gotten rid of somehow". Substitute "world" for "universe" and "American" for "man" and it is still a phrase that rings true.

"The Enchantress of Venus", Planet Stories, 1949 (also published as "City of the Lost Ones"). This is an Eric John Stark tale; actually, it is the second Stark story written by Brackett, the first being "Queen of the Martian Catacombs". It is a solid Stark story, and a solid story regardless of the protagonist, and I wonder why it has not been re-printed by Paizo in their Planet Stories line?

"The Lake of the Gone Forever", Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1949. I found the reading of this as almost a warning story of those that try to take the magic of the world and keep it for themselves.

"The Truants", Startling Stories, 1950. Again, this story did not appear in the table of contents, so I was surprised and pleased upon reaching the end of "Lake" to find I had one more tale. It is a creepy tale, almost Stephen King like in style, with a rather, in my opinion, silly ending that still satisfied.

Overall, this is a great collection, and read along with the Stark/Skaith stories available from Paizo and The Sword of Rhiannon, serves as a great introduction to the writings of Leigh Brackett.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In Memory of Catherine Jeffrey Jones

An icon of fantasy art died yesterday. She was more commonly known as Jeffrey Jones. She had sexual reassignment surgery in the 90's.

Her art was inspiring and always intriguing. Plus, her art was always sexy.

Here are two covers by her that I have in my collection.

RIP. You were one of the greats.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Frank Frazetta Art Inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I found a few books that I had forgotten that I bought in San Diego on a recent family vacation. Among them was this gorgeous Frank Frazetta cover for Savage Pellucidar. My copy is a fourth priting by Ace Books circa 1973.

Again, I am struck by how sexy the women in Frazetta's art were. Heavy breasted, round butts, savage, yet innocent.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More Frank Frazetta Appreciation, or My Wife Has A Frazetta Drawn Ass

I visited my local favorite used book store today and scored some very fine books. Amongst the score were numerous Edgar Rice Burroughs books to add to my collection. All together, I hauled in some booty of seventeen ERB books, plus a nice clean copy of E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, and a nice copy of Fritz Leiber's Ill Met in Lankhmar Volume 1, which had some stories my Leiber collection was missing.

Some of the Burrough's books I all ready had, but five of them featured Frank Frazetta cover art, which I am a proudly and loudly a self proclaimed panting fan-boy of. I will always buy a second copy of a book I all ready have, if said copy features Frazetta art.

The image which I found myself gazing upon the most was the image above, the cover for The Moon Maid. Now please draw your eyes to the shapely bum of the maid herself. Go ahead, and take your time.

Back? Good. The women depicted in Frazetta's art have always...well, we'll just say I've always found them inspiring. Frazetta has forever burned into my head what female beauty is and could be. Call me a pig if you will, but Frank captured my imagination like no other artist ever has.

Here is where I brag. I have always been enraptured by my wife's rear assets. It was not until today that I realized why: my wife has a Frank Frazetta Drawn Ass. I would post a picture to prove it, but it would be the last picture I ever posted, for I would be dead.

However, for your viewing pleasure, two more fabulous ERB inspired Frank Frazetta Art, which show cases my favorite aspect of his dames, the rear view.

The Moon Men

Escape On Venus