Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Care Package from a Dear Friend

When I arrived home from work the other day, I was greeted by a small parcel sitting in front of my screen door. I hadn't ordered any Amazon packages recently, at least not any unreceived Amazon packages, so I quickly looked at the return address. To my pleasant surprise, the box had been sent by my dear friend Jay. I hurriedly opened the package to see what treasures lay within, since Jay has a keen knowledge of many of my obsessions. The trove was better than expected. It was filled with fantastic fiction of the sort I adore, and included two extraordinary gems.

So what did Jay send?

Glad you asked.

  • Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein (1981 Ballantine edition)
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein (1974 Berkley Medallion edition)
  • Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein (1965 Signet edition)
  • Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke (1966 Ballantine)
  • Justice, Inc. by "Kenneth Robeson" aka Paul Ernst (1972 Paperback Library)
  • The Hate Master by "Kenneth Robeson" aka Paul Ernst (1973 Warner Paperback Library)
  • The Fantastic Island by "Kenneth Robeson" aka W.Ryerson Johnson and Lester Dent (1966 Bantam books)
  • The Sea Magician by "Kenneth Robeson" aka Lester Dent (1970 Bantam)
  • The Stone Man by "Kenneth Robeson" aka Lester Dent (1976 Bantam)
  • A Gent from Bear Creek by Robert E. Howard (1975 Zebra Books)
  • Son of the White Wolf by Robert E. Howard (1978 Berkley Medallion)
  • Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1979 Ace)
  • The Mask of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer (1966 Pyramid)
  • The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer (1965 Pyramid)
  • Tower of Zanid by L. Sprague deCamp (1963 Airmont)
  • Day of the Giants by Lester del Rey (1964 Airmont)
  • The Cactus Kid by Tom West and Kansas Guns -- Abridged by Paul Durst (1959 Ace Double Book)
  • Winter Range by Al Cody and Pistol Whipper by Lee Floren (1960 Ace Double Books)
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1962 Crest Book)

I want to take a moment to highlight the two Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu novels, The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu and The Mask of Fu Manchu. I am a fan of this particular member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and am a proud owner of The Romance of Sorcery. Jay and I watched one of the old Fu Manchu movies, The Mask of Fu Manchu to be specific, starring Boris Karloff when we were in a film class together as undergrads. I was shocked at the film's ending when Nayland Smith throws the Sword of Genghis Khan into the ocean.
Smith's disdain for an artifact from Chinese history, admittedly one which could be used for world domination if it fell into the wrong hands, was a perfect example of British Imperialism and attitude of superiority. I wouldn't have been shocked if Smith's action was shown in a negative light, but it is shown as a good and necessary action. The boat scene, combined with my love of many Hong Kong martial arts films which show the other view of British Imperialism, has led me to swirl an idea in the back of my head. I eventually want to write a story where both Manchu and Smith are the villains.
The idea is still in a primordial state, but I think it is a pretty good one. It is admittedly high concept, and very much influenced by Marvel Comics' Master of Kung Fu, Grant Stockbridge's The Spider: Master of Men, Lester Dent's Doc Savage the Man of Bronze, and Jet Li's Wong Fei Hung (who would be anachronistic, but cool). If I can find a way to throw in Sun Wu Kung, I'll do that too. Hmm... maybe as "The Avenger," both are shapeshifters of a sort.
I have always found the Chinese nationalism of films like Once Upon a Time in China and Drunken Master II very compelling. I can only wonder what it would be like to have another culture pilfer the treasures of my nation's past to sell them as mantle placements.

As for the gems, A Gent from Bear Creek is a collection of Robert Howard's Breckinridge Elkin's stories which can be hard to find. Howard's name equals only Conan to some readers, but those people are really missing out on some good yarns. One of the joys of the Elkins stories is Howard's attempt to capture vernacular in the writing. It's not an easy thing to do without coming off as ridiculous. Manly Wade Wellman does a great job of it in his John stories, and Howard does a pretty bang up job himself, in part because it makes the "tall tale" aspect of the stories all the more convincing.

The other gem is the novel that one of my childhood favorite science fiction films is based on, The Day of the Triffids. In all honesty, I only have vague memories of the movie (similar to my Asphyx memories), but I really liked the movie as a kid. Hopefully, the novel will rekindle those memories and maybe even add some new ones.

Thanks Jay.

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