Major Hodgson Donation Announced!

william hope hodgson

WHH Jane Frank has just confirmed that she and her husband are making a major donation of William Hope Hodgson material!  The donation consists of the Franks’ WHH archive of original typescripts, offprints, correspondence, photographs and ephemera (formerly known as the Sam Moskowitz collection).

It is being donated to the University of California, Riverside, where it will become part of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy in the UC Riverside Libraries’  Special Collections & University Archives.  A formal announcement will be forthcoming from UC Riverside.

A special reception and panel discussion about Hodgson is planned to commemorate this event and will be held on April 16, 2014, at the Library.

In her email to me regarding the donation, Jane stated that it had always been their intention to donate the material to a college or university and that one of their primary goals when buying the collection at the…

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goodreads Steals Reviews for Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and Paperwhite

GoodReads

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All this goodreads censorship folderol makes sense when you realize that Amazon’s goal all along was to integrate the Kindle with goodreads. I presume all the four letter words will be the next censorship target since when Grandma looks up a review on her Kindle Fire HDX or her new Paperwhite she is going to be a little shocked to see “this book was f___ed up” in a review. Amazon always edited the four letter words or off-color content out of the Amazon site reviews (or just didn’t allow the reviews to post). How long will it be until that begins? goodreads will become just an Amazon catalog.

Or maybe if Amazon is too stupid to censor (not likely) including a few expletives in your goodreads review will ensure that Amazon doesn’t steal it for the Kindle.

No Amazon

When evil corporations buy up dissenting voices.

On-Topic

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The Great Amazon Swindle prepackaged for your pleasure. Admittedly only presents one side of the story of how multinational corporations stifle and eliminate dissenting voices. Written as a poke in the eye, daring badreads or Amazon to delete it; the desperate voices of literary freedom that cried out when a corporation chose to turn a thriving social network into a mere catalog.

One negative is that this collection of dissenting voices doesn’t do enough to identify the remoras that are so eager to neck-suck Jeff Bezos and the ultimate flim-flam man Otis Chandler. We want to know who besides the coddled goodreads authors are laughing all the way to the bank.

GoodReads

Matango!

Matango_1963You know what?  I was engaging in America’s #1 leisure time activity last night, and guess what it is, it ain’t sex, it’s television.  So what you say.  So what!  I was supposed to be out camping and I was but I didn’t let a little thing like that get in the way of MY leisure time.  You see I had my smartphone with me (and what an apt name for the little gadget, get one with the biggest screen size you can).  I was merrily ensconced in the supine position in my sleeping bag watching television and eating Reese’s Pieces while the rest of the clan and friends were out freezing their butts off, getting bug-bit, getting smoked out roasting weenies, S’mores, telling stories, etc.  No sir, your’s truly isn’t going to be found wasting valuable clicks in the ol’ lifetime game on stuff like that when through the wonders of modern technology I could be sitting by myself watching television.

But this is not the main thrust of this essay.  What was I watching you ask?  Why Matango of course, crudely translated into English as Attack of the Mushroom People or Fungus of Terror.  And what a bit of tasty 1963 Japanese fare it was too.  Now I’m sure by now you think you know where this little piece of arcana is going, but you, with your degraded sense of perception are oh so wrong.  So stick around if you want to get that Jethro Bodeen 6th grade edecation stretched a bit.

matango4by3First let’s get a few things about foreign language films straightened out.  This Matango affair is a Japanese language film.  Now I want to make it clear from the start that this is no art film.  Sometimes foreign language and art cinema get confused.  See all art cinema is bad.  Some foreign language films (most) are art films, but by logic not all foreign language films must be art films.  So some foreign language films can be good (but not many).  Did you follow that?  I hope so, most times I’m not too sure about you.

“The body lay outside an abandoned, boarded-up theater. The theater had started as a first-run movie house, many years back when the neighborhood had still been fashionable. As the neighborhood began rotting, the theater began showing second-run films, and then old movies, and finally foreign-language films.”  ― Ed McBain

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Typical Art Cinema

Unfortunately before TV took over as the #1 entertainment venue, most foreign language film venues (almost all the dreaded “art film” theater) were in the seedier neighborhoods, in the same alley as the porno houses and peep shows, so a lot of people weren’t aware of the few gems that came out of the foreign language cinema.  Now your intrepid host here, being a courageous sort, wasn’t afraid of these neighborhoods of ill repute so I actively sought out these far too few baubles on the foreign cinematic charm bracelet.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of infantile and prurient fare I had to, um, let’s save that for later.  Where was I?  My point is we don’t want this Matango confused with some far inferior motion pictures, I would say worthless, from Sweden or Italy made by so-called artistes of the cinema.

Then the next thing we need to make clear about enjoying a good foreign language film like Matango is turning the subtitles off and turning the alternate language track for English on.  I know the lips don’t match and the dialog almost certainly doesn’t either, but the last thing we want to do is let something as tedious as reading interfere with our quality leisure time activity.  Sometimes you just have to give up one thing for another better thing.  Anyway with your reading comprehension I wouldn’t want your enjoyment to be ruined by having to hit the pause button all the time to ask a lot of questions.

What most people don’t know about Matango is it’s based on a piece of classic sea faring horror literature.  It’s based on a story called The Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson.  This is a most creepy early horror story that influenced a lot of later horror stuff and not the usual drivel that was clogging up literature at the turn of the 19th century.  Hodgson practically invented the giant sea monster and did invent the attacking fungus genre and the latter is what we have here.  See how important he is to modern art?  Now with your education and lack of casual reading I wouldn’t expect you to know any of this plus it’s kind of not that well known anyway so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here.

88d78386572b8dae02ad5600649b8b0d3ac30448Well Matango was produced by the far seeing and justly famed Toho studios the visionary folks that also pretty much invented the giant monster flick single handedly.  It’s advertised to be in Tohoscope whatever that is.  Anyway it is wide screen and in color, real pluses.

Anyway let’s get started.  A bunch of high rollers are on a sailing holiday somewhere in the Pacific where their ship is severely damaged in a storm and then becalmed.  Eventually they are shipwrecked on an uncharted weird island that just happens to have a creepy hulk of its own with a lot of fungus on it.  Can you see a classic in the making?

matango-6Well they clean up the old tub and try to make a home out of it until they can get rescued.  The island is all covered with little and big mushrooms and fungi and other weird alien looking stuff.  They’ve got food but it sort of runs out and those little toadstools look tasty and smell so fresh.  Guess what’s on the menu?  Shiitake happens!  Now you know what happened to all the folks on the other boat, and it ain’t rescue.  The usual body snatcher type mayhem ensues.

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Don’t eat that!

The movie is in color and the island is filmed in such a freaky color scheme you might think you’ve eaten some ‘shrooms yourself.  The transformation pustules are pretty gross to look at so that makes ’em cool while your eating some Reese’s Pieces.

Once this little known classic was over it was nighty-night time for your’s truly no matter what nonsense the others were up to, probably eating the toadstools in the campground or those colorful plate things that stick out of trees since the S’mores were gone, but I know better now.  See TV can be informative as well as entertaining.

Anyway, unless they have me tied down and are force feeding me those toad stools I’ll be up early because Saturday morning means just one thing besides breakfast, The Three Stooges!

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GoodReads

Bad Reads

Well Amazon finally screwed the pooch with GoodReads.  I said this would happen as soon as Amazon acquired GR.  Blow hards like David Gaughran who were probably already getting kickbacks from Amazon provided Amazon apologetics but I could see through the hypocrisy.

What happened?  Well last Friday, as most of the GR staff were probably hitting the freeway, GR announced a new censorship policy.  They would now delete reviews completely, without warning or notice, that were prejudicial towards authors when they felt the author comments from the reviewer were not relevant to the book review at hand or just plain hostile to the author.  At the same time they said they would start deleting user book shelves where they deemed the shelf title or shelf contents also violated this policy, say if I had a shelf which was called “worthless authors who’s books I will never buy or read.”  They will delete these completely without notice.  Oh, and if you admit you couldn’t finish the book because it was so bad, they’ll delete that review too.  You have to finish the book now to post a review that won’t get “removed.”

They provided all this information strictly through a group thread, no real announcement to anyone and had already started deleting content without warning.  The Friday “bad news” drop is a typical ploy used by government and corporations so nobody has to deal with it, it in theory has no effect or a dampened effect by Monday.  Amazon, er, I mean GoodReads employed the same sleazy tactic.

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When Evil Corporations Take Over

This entire fiasco comes out of the fact that instead of being an independent entity like GR used to be it is now essentially a division of Amazon a bookseller.  Smell something fishy in Denmark?  Do I see a conflict of interest?

Another factor was the whiny GR authors, many of whom never published anything worthwhile (GR is flooded with mainly worthless self-published authors as well as a few good ones).  These authors whined about being attacked and unfairly treated.  The fact that GR is now a division of a bookseller leads them to try to protect authors, delete negative reviews, negative book shelves, etc.  I assume the next shoe will be deleting one-star reviews from the ratings.  Who is unfairly treated now?

What can you do?  Well there are already fledgling sites like BookLikes that offer a level of competition.  In addition there is still LibraryThing.   You can export all your GR content (including all the reviews) to a .csv file that can be read into MS-Excel and usually transferred to the alternate biblio-social networks like BL and LT.

No AmazonBoycott GoodReads and Amazon.  There are alternatives to buy books from, even a lot of Kindle content can be purchased directly from publishers.  Go to an independent bookseller.  Barnes and Noble needs the money anyway if you want to see a viable alternative to Amazon in the future.

BandN

Monsters & Literature

Here’s your Independence Day treat.  Don’t eat it too fast, it’ll make you sick.

Okay, now I’ve already told you about how all music is better when played faster and louder, well here is the next step in our artistic journey: all art and entertainment is better if it also includes monsters. Although this construct is self evident, I’ll provide a few examples along the way just to prove it. Also we will get into the unfortunate misuse and overuse of monsters in literature.

Moby DickIn prior literary times it wasn’t common to feature monsters in literature.  We would get the occasional witch or demon but no real monster stuff up until the Romantic and Victorian eras.  Then we got real monster stuff like Frankenstein and Dracula.  However these were all considered brown wrapper books, back of the store stuff for the most part.  Who really got monsters started into literature was Herman Melville.  Melville wrote a lot of stuff:  Typee, Oomu, and a story about a lazy guy who doesn’t want to work, crap nobody reads anymore and crap nobody read back then either.  Then he came up with a brilliant idea, write the same kind of book but include monsters in it:  man-eating whales and giant squid.  Well you know the rest of the story.  They couldn’t keep Moby Dick; on the shelves even though it was longer than a Stephen King novel. Now you might think a whale is no big deal but think about the novelty in the 19th century, nobody had real monsters in novels or stories, so a giant, man-eating, toothed, sperm (he, he) whale was a big deal. Sure it’s dated now but so’s your mother. Peter Benchley even stole it in the modern era and made it a crumby shark for heavens sake, so you can’t say it’s that dated.

SquidWell monsters in literature went out of favor for awhile while guys like William James and Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope (he, he) wrote a lot of boring books that nobody reads anymore, even when they’re assigned in school. Kids just crib it from some Ivory-Merchant movie, or Cliff’s Notes, or Wikipedia now. And it’s no wonder, these books are dead boring and rarely feature even the occasional witch, demon, or even body snatcher (They aren’t very well written either.).

So a couple of years ago (2009) there was a spate of “literary” (= boring) novels that got jazzed up with the addition of monsters. This was generally a good thing. It all started with Jane Austen’s dreary book of marriage foibles entitled Pride and Prejudice. Now Ms. Austen got one thing right: alliteration in titles, but that’s about all she had worth reading. Then along came the eminently talented Seth Grahame-Smith with the genesis of how to make the 19th century “parlor” novel tolerable: add monsters. We therefore got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I cannot describe how excited I was on first hearing about this “novel” artifice. Sadly the execution was not as grand as I had hoped it would be. Don’t get me wrong, this was far better than the dreadful zombie-less version of P&P but it wasn’t as good as it could have been, hence the disappointment (What’s new?). The problem was the zombie sequences were all bolted on, not made integral to, the plot of marrying off the ugly and fat Bennett daughters. There were lively scenes of zombie ninja slaughter interspersed but it never really affected the main characters in any lasting way. Now for a monster insertion into a piece of writing, film, or television (we’ll leave out live theater for the obvious reasons), to be realistic it has to engage the major storyline and affect at least some of the main characters. Just having zombie fight sequences inserted with everyone else living happily ever after is never gonna wash.

PrideandPrejudiceandZombiesCoverHere’s how I would have done it, and done it right. I would have had at least one of the girls get bitten by the “unmentionables.” Then the action could have figured on how the daughter would have to be married off before the “affliction” became obvious to the suitor. See how much better that would have been. Alternatively you could have Elizabeth being bitten but then engaging in a mad race with Mrs. Bennett to get the other sisters married off before the curse sets in on her. Another angle could be to have the stricken Elizabeth, summoning her last ounce of humanity, pimping Darcy off on a less worthy but also less undead débutante. Ah, I was born to be an editor or producer.

Anyway this started a wave of updated and improved “classics” starting with the marvelous Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (much better alliterative title than the clumsy P&P&Z). A lot of my hoity-toity (ex)writer friends referred to these pastiches as “abominations.” Needless to say we crossed them off the invitation list.

Well of course things got out of hand like they always do.  Pretty soon we had Android Karenina and similar dreck.  An android is not a proper monster, it’s just a robot. Then we had the spate of historico-literary punch-ups like Queen Victoria Demon Hunter all of which were blatant fakes except for the excellent Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter which was based on actual suppressed federal documents. I think FEMA or the Trilateral Commission were behind the suppression. Now the entire sub-genre of monster enhanced classics has waned from both overexposure but also from the fact that the literary novels left to insert monsters in are so bad that even a monster won’t save them.

There you have it:  add monster, shaken not stirred.

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Next time I’ll tell you how the inclusion of television, broadcast or cable, can enhance anything from sex to nature walks.

Booksellers

Another quickie, this time more serious but still delivered in my always erudite yet entertaining style.  Barnes and Noble (B&N from here on out) looks like it is on the ropes and may even go the route of Borders; big losses and a prediction of more big losses.  Not good.  However there might be a silver lining to this which I will elucidate later.

Barnes and Nobles EarnsB&N has made all the wrong moves IMHO, some of which I will speak of here. First, the Nook Tablet: B&N failed to capitalize on it when it was ahead of Kindle Fire in the e-book market. Also, although nobody else seems to pick up on this, Nook Tablet lack of apps versus the Kindle Fire and lack of ability to load third party Android apps on it (Kindle could do this, at least at that time). To a techy like me this was a killer for B&N’s tablet reader (I actually own both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet so I kinda know what I’m saying here). There was no way the Nook was going to catch the Kindle even with B&N’s in store presence.

Second, Nook’s more limited e-book catalog and B&N’s clumsy and unattractive site. These are additional killers for me although from time to time I find Nook titles ahead of Kindle and some books on Nook that are not in the Amazon catalog (weird).

nonbook crapThird, too much floor space dedicated to non-book crap (see above) and Nook without compensating for the more limited book floor space. A lot of investor and marketing types would disagree with me but I’m right even without the MBA. I’m a real customer. I love books, especially real ones. The only advantage B&N has over Amazon is brick and mortar stores. You simply cannot browse books at Amazon despite the “Look Inside” feature. Some people, the kind that go to bookstores (dummy MBA), like to touch books; like to smell, feel, and peruse a few of the tomes. B&N corporate types think that by putting more non-book and Nook crap, and fewer real books in the stores they will boost sales. Readers shun most of this crap and non-reader knuckle draggers don’t go into bookstores unless they are those idiots in the cafe with laptops and tablets that pretentiously pretend to be writing the next Great American Novel (they only ever buy one drink and take up all the good tables all day). But I digress… Even the readers who do the “browse, scan, and switch to Amazon” usually can’t help leaving the store with something if they could find anything they might be interested in. Book lovers are suckers for the impulse buy.

Fourth, I think B&N devotes too much space to the wrong genres, not because I hate those genres but because they don’t sell in BOOKSTORES. For instance, I know Paranormal Romance is supposed to be a big thing with teens and young women (I think some older women are sneaking these in too). I never see anyone browsing this space in the store. They must be getting these books elsewhere, probably WalMart or Target or Sams. At the same time I always see someone (or two) in the Graphic Novel section which they have squeezed down to two shelf columns. Now I’m no fool, unlike B&N merchandising types; B&N is trying to appeal to the wrong demographic. The average (and remember 50% of the people are ALWAYS below average for anything) WalMart customer never sets foot in a bookstore. I know I have two B&Ns and many WalMarts in my metro area and I have utilized both. (I hate WalMart. It has to be the grimmest shopping experience on earth. I have more fun at Sams Club.). Just scan the crowds, you’ll see what I mean. But the dummies at B&N just look at sales numbers from publishers and “the buzz” in the business. They are ultimately too lazy to go walk around in stores and do a POS stint to absorb the obvious.

Expect a lot of store closures. I know in my town where there are two B&Ns one has gotta close soon. A good feeding frenzy for book buyers who want short term bargains and all that crap in the front of the store.

happy-books1I promised you a silver lining and I’m not here to disappoint (heh, heh, heh). Independent bookstores, the ones that managed to stay open, should get a boost from a B&N demise unless Amazon decides to get into bricks & mortar in a big way. I don’t think the latter is likely once they knock off B&N. The independents will be the only place where the real book lover can go to handle a real physical book (besides the few BAMS). Now independent bookstores have their own set of problems, like lack of focus on small presses and/or regional printed matter and an over-reliance on big publishers. Most of these problems are caused by bookstore owners with blinders on or an old notion of the market. Most should have some on-line presence in addition if they are going to survive.

Man Oh Man look at where we are! I said this would be quick and it wasn’t but you are getting used to me disappointing you (heh, heh, heh). Since it’s topical, soon to spoil like rotten fruit, I’ll publish it now. I usually sit on these pearls for awhile and I actually have a few, okay one, in the hopper so I can hone what is already an almost perfect blog post, but your brain will explode if I unleash too much profound knowledge too fast.

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Go buy a real book from a real store before it’s too late!  Oh, and the Blackhawks won the Lord Stanley Cup!

I Told Ya So…

Just a quickie here. “Ethics” was kind of a special edition because of some muckraking and yellow journalism that just couldn’t wait. I’ve gone over this post four or five times and every fact is dead true. There isn’t a lie or exaggeration in it. Pretty good for one of my posts, huh?

Well I’m feeling pretty good today. Why? For one the Dunbar thing went down just as I predicted. “Willy” is the “monthly read” from now ’til August something in Literary Darkness on GR (lends a new meaning to darkness). So I’m only one for one you say. Oh no effendi, I’m batting two for two today. Go back and look at “Suckers” from a week or so ago, then look at the DJIA today, then look at your 401K. Was it chicken day at your house? The farmer didn’t bring any chicken feed today did he? And your investments are also going to look like chicken feed if you don’t do something about it real soon. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. BTW I bailed out last Friday. I’m feeling like the cat that ate the canary.