I went to a panel at the WorldCon in San Antonio a few years back on Texas Pulp SF. Apart from the 800-lb. 1800-lb. gorilla in the room, Texans were grossly underrepresented in the pulps. The consensus was that they were writing speculative fiction, and good speculative fiction, but that it was getting published as folklore. That struck close to home. I sometimes say I didn’t discover speculative fiction until my mom forced The Hobbit on me, but that isn’t quite true. Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I grew up with ghost stories. Much like that Texas “folklore.” The difference, of course, merely being one of perceptive.
You can imagine my interest then, when I discovered that an Appendix N and Weird Tales stalwart, Manly Wade Wellman, wrote an entire series of short stories very much rooted in the lore of my people. About John. At least that’s the only way his name is given in the stories. He is more usually known as John the Balladeer or Silver John. He may also be a parallel universe Johnny Cash. Or maybe John the Baptist. Or maybe both.
The Broken Universe is the sequel to alternate universe novel The Walls of the Universe. In The Walls, Farmboy John’s doppelganger (himself, from an alternate universe; John Prime), gave him a device that would allow him to move from one alternate universe to another (the universes being identical but for different decisions made, with small or large consequences), but wouldn’t allow him to move back, including to his home. The Walls ended with Farmboy John figuring out how to build a gate of his own to allow backward travel between the universes. Farmboy John, Grace, Henry, and their doppelgangers begin to use the device and its replicas to begin building a cross-universe business empire. Complications predictably ensue.
Have you ever wondered what your life might be like had you, or someone else, just made a different, possibly even minor, choice? Just how much would change? Such speculation provides the grist for alternate (or parallel) universe novel The Walls of the Universe. Into the life of simple farmboy and engineering school hopeful John Rayburn walks…John Rayburn. John Prime (nicknames being necessary for obvious reasons) tells John Farmboy that inter-universe travel is possible courtesy of a device small enough to strap to his chest. He loans John Farmboy the device as proof it works, and things get interesting from there.
He likes it that way. The whole “lonely hero” thing.
The other day, with my wife out of town and having set aside my work at the early hour of 8pm, I was looking for something to watch. I would up watching Hellboy for the first time in at least a few years. I was immediately struck by how pulpy it is. A quick Google search confirms I am not the first person to have the thought, but there is more to it than immediately meets the eye.
Hellboy is totally pulp. And not just because it has a tentacled space monster. Mike Mignola, the writer-artist of the original comic, points to Lovecraft, but he also points to Robert E. Howard. And not just to Conan but to Solomon Kane. And not just to Howard but to Manly Wade Wellman. Now you have my attention.
Mignola—and Guillermo del Toro, through his film adaptation—haven’t just created the superficial sort of homage to the pulps that you more typically see. It goes beyond throwing in some tentacles and vivid imagery (let us all pause and give thanks for Guillermo del Toro). Hellboy is pulp in every sense of the word.
How so? Read on and find out. (With the caveat that I’ve never read the comics and haven’t seen the second movie in a long time, so I will be focusing entirely on the first movie.)
UPDATE: I dashed this off as quickly as possible, and forgot a few things. I’ve added another section to the end.
The Hugo Awards finalists have been announced. You can find the full list here. Looking over this…yeah, I’m not going to pay for the privilege of voting this year. There just isn’t enough here I’m interested enough in reading to justify paying $40 (and the voting itself certainly isn’t worth much). A few highlights:
Posted in Sundry
Tagged 2017 Hugos
I was a big, big fan of Jennings’ debut, Arena. Gauntlet is a helluva ride too. Kali Ling, the Warrior, is back to stab people repeatedly in virtual reality melee. And this time she’s doing it as team owner and in an all-star tournament.
I read American Gods a few years ago and enjoyed it but it didn’t really grab me. But, I
have to admit, I’m excited about the upcoming TV adaptation. William Morrow has taken advantage of the hype to re-release American Gods today with a new cover. They were kind enough to send me a copy, so I have an excuse to revisit American Gods and read the Author’s Preferred Edition (the review below is of the original version).
American Gods is the sort of book that you can tell is supposed to be Important and to offer some great insight into American culture. But for the life of me I can’t pin down just what that importance is. And if it’s a look into Middle America, but it’s cloudy, as if viewed through a smoky piece of glass. I suspect people whose only view of Middle America is from above (and from fiction) will read it and say, ‘yes, it’s just like that!’ and people like myself who have lived in Middle America will read it and say, ‘no, that’s not quite right.’ What’s left is just a book full of beautiful prose and mediocre plotting (the plotting remains to be seen, but it certainly seems that the TV adaptation will have some striking visuals).