Thursday, February 7, 2019

Fandom: An Illustrative History (Part I: Origins and Tales From the Crypt)

The last few years have been rough on the genre fiction scene. Plummeting sales and irrelevancy are unavoidable truths. On the other end is endless clique squabbling, blacklisting, and sexual scandals that flare up at the drop of hat. It feels like it has been getting worse, and it has, but there is an uncomfortable truth buried in this scene. None of this is new, but in fact has been ramping up for decades. It all started long before most of us were born.

But what we don't tend to emphasize is just how deep this sort of childish and anti-social behavior ran back then and how it has remained entrenched since.

This is where much of the conflict happening today comes from. It's a war between the fanatics and the normal people, and the inmates run the asylum.

Sometimes I like to peruse the local used bookstores before Saturday Mass. If I have a few extra bucks in my pocket I prefer to spend it on old mass market paperbacks that would otherwise rot on the shelf at the rear of the store. However, one trip was different. I went into the back where the copies of Forgotten Realms and Marion Zimmer Bradley and her ilk's works sit and found the above book sitting there staring at me with that evocative monster illustration on the cover. I flipped it open and saw scores of old promotional art and covers from ancient pulps and knew I had to get this book.

But what I didn't expect was the goldmine of information inside. Not only is this book an "Illustrated History" of Science Fiction, it contains one author's (and fan's) input on the development of the genre up to 1977 when the book was written. Yes, just before Star Wars came out and told us outright what the audience really wanted. Needless to say that I jumped at this chance to read a first hand account of a post-pulp (the author was born in 1941) science fiction scholar who thought they were changing the world with their space stories just before George Lucas's homage to all that was torn down by the author's heroes blew smoke in their faces.

I don't mean to come across as mean, but those were the thoughts gushing through my brain as I flipped through the book after purchasing it. And the author makes it too easy. Because after reading what Mr. Lundwall wrote about certain figures in the field my respect for him withered rather fast.

First some back story. Sam J. Lundwall is a Swedish writer/translator who translated many works from Swedish into English. He wrote a handful of science fiction works himself, which is probably why he was asked to construct this book. As far as I can tell he continued writing both fiction and non-fiction well into the current year in his vibrant homeland. There is not much information available, so I will assume he had a very fruitful and productive career, and am happy for him. This book alone is highly informative about a specific era and mindset which makes me wonder just what else he might have done that wasn't brought out overseas. But I digress.

He was also very active in fandom. Per Infogalactic:
"Lundwall was also the editor of the science fiction magazine Jules Verne-Magasinet between 1972 and 2009 and has been active in fandom, for instance he organised conventions in Stockholm in 1961, 1963, 1973, 1975, 1977 and 1979. He has been both a board member and chairman (twice) of World SF and north European coordinator for Science Fiction Writers of America."
Needless to say, this book comes from a very specific viewpoint and one fairly opposed to my own. This is why I was so eager to read it. I wanted to see a book written by someone in that crowd and to have them lay their cards on the table as to just what their intent in creating fiction was and why it is so different from those who came before.

I was not disappointed.

The book is split up into 10 sections mostly organized by tropes. This leads me to believe the written portions were originally essays re-purposed for this book, but that's not going to stop me from looking them over. It covers quite the spread of titles and years regardless.

The rear blurb states the thesis of the work is to prove that science fiction is a worldwide phenomenon that hadn't blossomed in English speaking countries until post-World War I and positions the author as a "qualified observer from a neutral standpoint" to lead the reader down the yellow brick road of the genre's history and where it is going. I'm going to contest the "neutral" assertion and I will go into why later. For now we will start at the beginning.

The first section is called Origins and is appropriately about the beginnings of the fantastical story starting with legends such as Gilgamesh as well as typicaFairy Tales. In fact the first sentence could be used to describe all genre fiction quite handily:
"The fantastic tale, which in this technological age is known as science fiction, has roots in the earliest fairy tales and tall tales, in its desire to entertain, romance and satirize by means of stories with a more or less factual basis."
He then goes on to skim through ancient Greece, the Middle Ages and romances, the Age of Enlightenment, and so on. This material is highly informative and makes for a fun read. The book starts off strong. However we soon reach a point of contention many modern genre fans stilhave with each other in the current day. He makes the assertion as to where modern science fiction started from.
"Modern science fiction in a sense appeared with the German romanticists of the late eighteenth century--Clemens Brentano, Achim von Armin, Adalbert von Chamisso, E. T. A. Hoffman and others. These romantic Marchen writers wrote what in effect were fairy tales for adults, including all the various paraphernalia common in modern sf, such as robots, monsters, strange machines etc, set against a curious background. They demanded an almost boundless credulity from their readers, for they described life, not as a reality, but as a dream of sorts--not what it is, but as it might be."
You will notice two other elephants in the room when talking about the origins of science fiction. That would be the other big genres. In this passage he is (unknowingly?) referring to the origins of both fantasy and horror. This is that link the anti-pulp crowd does not like to talk about.

This is the very link to Poe, Hawthorne, and eventually the Weird Tales and pulp era that SF aficionados really don't like the taste of. But here it is being spelled out again.

And to quash another canard, the author continues:
"When some critics argue that the English author Mary Shelley invented modern science fiction with the novel Frankenstein (1818), they forget that she was drawing upon more than fifty years of Marchen literature, most of it infinitely better and more modern than Frankenstein was."
No, that wasn't written by Jeffro Johnson. In fact you will soon see that the author is no friend of the pulps or the old stories at all. There is a larger point here. This is a man who stood at fandom's heart, and here he is admitting what no one currently in that position will. If you accept Mary Shelley as science fiction (and horror, when it's convenient to the argument) you have to accept many other works that came before hers. You do not get to pick and choose.

You have to accept fantasy and horror as a whole connect to science fiction, and she did not create either of those. She merely continued on in a tradition that started long before she was born and continued long after she was dead. Despite fandom's best efforts to rewrite the past, she did not create the genre. She was a participant in a unending conversation called art and had her piece. This should be enough.

Those using Shelley as a bludgeon for political reasons are doing her work and those who came before a disservice and are actively whitewashing history--a history, I might add that was crystal clear from all the way back in 1977. Even fandom understood this.

This fairy tale tradition is what later writers such as Jules Verne were pulling from when they wrote their scientific adventures. He did not wake up and decide to write stories about scientific speculation without prompting. His work was a modernized take on a marchen romance. This was the standard for many years.

Eventually writers attempted to swap out the Gothic influence with Science worship, and the genres began to stray from their roots. Lundwall even considers The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson from 1912 as the last Marchen romance and Lord Dunsany's work as an attempt to revive it. I assume this is when the style began to morph into the weird tale where fantasy and horror still clung together before D&D and Lovecraft-worship pried them apart years later with a little help from the failed magazine Unknown leading the charge.

But I'm getting off track. The point is that all genre fiction comes from the same place. It is clear to anyone paying attention. They were only pulled apart by fetishists who hyper-focused one aspect to the exclusion of the others. This is how we are left without Chesterton's fence as a signpost and a score of writers absolutely lost at sea and without a clue as to how to proceed without aping those who tore down the fence to begin with. It was forcibly pulled apart long ago.

And I'm still drifting. Back to science fiction.

Editors had been trying to make the genre label stick for decades until Hugo Gernsback pushed it into regular use in the 1920s with Amazing Stories. Considering his reputation I can only imagine how he managed that.

However, the problem with defining and pruning science fiction to exclude essentially everything it came from has left it with the issue of being unable to have an agreed upon definition. Lundwall himself posts several different opinions from 1851 up to the 1970s when the book came out. Over a century without defined terms. If it takes you that long to define your genre then you must not know what the point of it is to begin with.

There is one definition I want to post from 1973, because it is very revealing as to the type of people who made this separation such an obsessive goal to begin with. This is by Bulgarian writer Elka Konstantiova:
"Even though the origins of science fiction go back to the mid-19th century, nonetheless as a new literary genre, charged with special social functions, science fiction is the undoubted product of the nuclear age. The more meaningful the scientific and technological breakthroughs and their impact on modern life, the greater the role of science fiction, stimulating our vision for things to come, especially in the aspect of the changes wrought in man's mentality by the scientific and technological revolution. Science fiction brings home the awareness that the future will continue to bring radical changes in all areas of man's life; science fiction is there to prepare him for this eventuality."
In other words, it's secular scripture. Science fiction is a way to guide the populace by informing them on what path they should take to build a better tomorrow. Which better tomorrow, you might ask? Well, the one that will advance humanity as a whole.

And doesn't that sound familiar.
"SCIENCE FICTION HAS finally come to the parting of the ways with meaningless idealism, and, with that idealism, dies. Science fiction must mutate -- must change into a new form of idealism, a fighting, practical idealism, an idealism based on action and not on words, on experience and achievements and not on bombastic and irrelevant swaggerings."
More on this later.

There is not much more to say on the opening chapter. Mr. Lundwall continues to pry a genre definition from half-formed ideas and made-up terms in order to put to paper what science fiction is. The fact is that it doesn't have one, and that might be because it is not much in the way of a standalone genre.

Unlike, say, mystery which is about mystery, or romance which is about romance, or adventure which is about adventure, if your genre requires mental gymnastics to explain to a child then you should go back to the drawing board. One sentence should be enough. Genres aren't aesthetics or themes. Genres are defined by what emotion and sense they are meant to invoke in the reader. This is why the average reader picks up a book. They choose one based on the experience it will give them.

What they are fumbling around to define in the above definitions is Wonder. Wonder is a trait from adventure fiction and its subgenres fantasy and horror. It is the adventure of exploring new lands, peoples, and possibilities. Pair that with the origins of those listed in the paragraph above and you will see where I am going with this, and why the battle for an original definition has been fruitless for well over a century. It's never going to have one, and that is a point that should be discussed more than it is.

Nevertheless this is a good first chapter in setting up the work to come. The second chapter tackles the Gothic novel specifically. This is a form that was torn away from genre fiction and replaced by dry nihilism in horror and D&D tropes in fantasy. If there is a good place to focus a chapter on after going over the genre origins it would be on this subject.

He describes the Gothic novel as such:
"Its strong connections with the Medieval chansons de geste and other tales of chivalry with their unbearable noble heroes, incredible, constantly swooning ladies and unbelievable villains, gives the genre life and gusto and guarantees new, staggering thrills on every page. It is very dramatic, alternating between the pathetic and the grotesque and characterized by mighty heroics, swords, blood and hideous slithering things in the darkness of convenient crypts."
Edgar Rice Burroughs, eat your heart out. Or should I have said Abraham Merritt? Robert E. Howard? C.L. Moore? Manly Wade Wellman? Henry Kuttner? Leigh Brackett? You get my point. This is the soul missing in so many later pulp revivals.

The Gothic is the beating bloody heart in any good traditional romance story and is what gives it the universal core so needed in fiction. White against black. Dark against Light. Hero against Villain. Eternal Life against Endless Death. Temptation against Virtue. It goes beyond the surface into weighty themes of the Ultimate, God, and True Justice. The knowledge of a battle between forces beyond both parties at play that haunt the scenery and the overall world behind the story. It underpins every action and decision, and the thought that salvation or damnation is a stone throw away is the most nail-biting experience of them all. Now those are stakes, and they were an integral part of all fiction until the second half of the 20th century where the worst thing that can happen to you is that a monster might kill you in the dark where you can't see it.

Really makes you think.

But here is where we get the writer's real opinion of adventure fiction. What follows is his description of The Castle of Otranto, the single most important and popular Gothic novel.
"It had form and no substance, it horrors all lay on the surface as it were . . . the seminal The Castle of Otranto succeeded only in building up baroque facades without much content. In many ways this was the forerunner to the Penny Dreadfuls and the pulp magazines--lots of form, no content."
I will translate this from arrogant fandomese for the paupers in the audience. "Form and no substance" means the horrors are spiritual, implied, and obvious to those reading, and not explicit. "Its horrors all lay on the surface" means the characters were not psychologically damaged and that the horror is an underpinning of a deeper and richer world than the ones the good people are struggling to live through. In other words, he reads Gothic fiction for the debauchery and not the spiritual danger under the surface that makes the style work so well. He couldn't grasp the mindset of the audience it was written for.

Think I'm reaching? Here's what he had to say about The Monk, a Gothic novel finally worth his time:
"This novel is not very much better written than any of the already mentioned works, but its probings of psychological terrors, however clumsily done, shocks more than groaning ghosts and black magic..."
There's that obsession with debauchery and broken human beings the elite are known for loving. As if some sort of depth greater than that of the spiritual themes of the actual genre in question lies in how broken the main character gets. There's no accounting for taste, but a genre of this importance deserves more than a backhanded compliment that completely misses the point of its existence.

This is like reading mysteries despite not liking the protagonists actually solving them. This is what it is. Which is more than I can say for whatever science fiction is supposed to be despite it's uncountable definitions. It makes staving off criticism harder when you can't be nailed down and held accountable.

And then there's that line about the pulps in the earlier passage.

The pulp revolution already debunked this "no content" myth that Mr. Lundwall is peddling, but we can't blame him for being ignorant of the pulps' roots and connections with the Gothic fiction he was just talking about, after all he was born in 1941 after peak pulp and was a fifteen year old when most of them were already gone. He was told what they were by those in charge and that was that.

Penny Dreadfuls and the pulps do have one thing in common. They are far more connected to the heart of the genre than his nebulous ever-changing sola scriptura science fiction is. After all this half-life of a pseudo genre emerged from a pulp magazine that changed its name to shrug off any connotations of wonder for realism. Erasing the pulps is nothing new. When you want to shape the future you can't forget to shape the past, too.

The Gothic tale and Marchen romance eventually collided again as writers tried to strip the supernatural from the stories to replace with sexual content, as is man's first thought when it comes to anything creative outside of heroism or God. What was once a genre about good men against bad men in a world haunted by sin and death was slowly becoming a genre of broken men in a broken world haunted by their own broken reflection. It was becoming more insular and self-obsessed. For now, however, the supernatural and the natural remained intertwined as they should be.
"The Marchen tale, however, blended into the Gothic tale in the early nineteenth century, something that was easy enough since both of these genres were quite preoccupied with black magic, wizards, strange science and a love of the Medieval."
This is because they are superficially the same genre. Replacing the spiritual with psychological does not change the genre since both of those are intertwined regardless. A world of fantastical wonders and adventure is what all these stories are and what they contain inside. This is like saying paranormal romance and historical romance are separate genres because one has ghosts in it and the other has historical research. Variations on a genre are called subgenres, they don't become whole new things.

After trashing Bram Stoker's Dracula (Oh, he had connections! That's why it's remembered) and giving a backhanded post-modern compliment to Varney, The Vampyre as "unconsciously funny" he goes on to describe many of the monsters that came from this tradition from Alexandre Dumas to Robert Louis Stevenson, and many other besides. This is the best part of the section and a highlight of the chapter.

However, Mr. Lundwall can't help it with his bad taste, giving us another take that has aged like spoiled milk left by the radiator. This is about H.P. Lovecraft:
"Sad to say that these are not much more than Gothic surfaces once again, with Lovecraft assuring us all the time that these horrors really are unspeakably evil, loathsome and revolting, but never proving why. Heavily influenced by the Irish fantasy author Lord Dunsany . . . and Edgar Allen Poe, he paints all the appropriate pictures of decay, degradation and corruption, but it all ends up as mere sounds, terrors without substance."
Nothing about the cosmic view of Lovecraft and how it informs his terrors is mentioned. That is the substance of his stories. More than any "psychological" horror, Lovecraft's work is a reflection of the despair of the modern man and crushing realization that he does not know nearly as much as he thinks he does in a universe he will never control. That Mr. Lundwall missed the underpinnings of both Gothic fiction and now Lovecraft is not lost on me. This will come up again.

Mr. Lundwall's taste in horror would have better suited being edited out of the work since he clearly did not understand why it ever connected with a wider audience. His constant berating of anything popular with the mainstream probably has something to do with it.

There is one last quote I do want to go over. When discussing Lovecraft he begins to dip into black and white morality (proving he really didn't get Lovecraft) and gets to mentioning Lord of the Rings and the Christian relation to Gothic literature. Now buckle up because you're about to see why the genres got separated in the first place and why fandom cultists will do anything to keep them that way.
"An unbearable complicated reality is dissolved into simple parts black and white, of good and evil. Werewolves, witches, and vampires of popular folklore were evil, period, and a good silver bullet was an effective way of stopping them. This was an age of straight, uncomplicated emotions, and witches were burned at the stake all over Europe as the good peasants successfully liberated themselves from the Devil."

Stories were written from a framework of a protagonist and an antagonist and the best way to make them dynamic and clash with each other was for them to have opposing views and goals. What better opposing ideals then good and evil? What better than polar opposite worldviews? Those who want to be good and have something to look up to put themselves in the shoes of the good man who defeats the evil. They relate and they understand as they live in a society where such things are clearly defined and shared among the populace. It gives them excitement, it affirms their lives a little, and is a net positive to the world. That is why such stories sell the best even today.

The age of Complicated Emotions gave rise to a generation of novels no one wanted to read, failing sales, and a fracturing of culture.

So, yes, good and evil is the correct way to go. I'm sure Mr. Lundwall was upset when Lord of the Rings was named novel of the century, too. Those stupid, dirty peasants and their unrefined palettes just couldn't understand meaningless dross like Ulysses soaked in a grey goo of nihilistic hedonism from the upper class and the wannabe elites. No one who faces real problems in life wants to engage in entertainment that makes them miserable and pulls them down. They want to be lifted out of the doldrums, not have their faces shoved in the mud by those who aspire to be invited to cocktail parties hosted by others with Complicated Emotions.

But he isn't finished.
"This is the basis of the Gothic tale and its philosophy, faithfully built upon the Christian faith and its rituals and this may be the main reason for its popularity in our complicated age when nothing is purely black or white any longer. In the Gothic tale, evil is easily recognizable, just as grotesque and deformed, loathsome and corrupted as it ought to be, but never is. It is no coincidence that the number of Black Masses is growing and the belief in the Devil as an actual fire-and brimstone person (?) is returning. The fallen Monk Ambrosio and Lucifer are so much more agreeable than Song My. Only the improbable is enjoyable in this context; when the horrors become too real, they become too unpleasant."
I'm now wondering if Mr. Lundwall had front row seat for Woodstock. I have no idea what where this passage came from.

Let's put aside the fact that he completely misunderstands black and white morality and why the public at large believes in it and always has and always will. This whole paragraph does not understand the nature of evil. Yes, evil can be hidden and good can be subtle, but that doesn't make them grey gruel that are "complicated" or complex. They still exist even if you're too morally dead to see them. The point of the Gothic tale is that good and evil are but a choice away and damnation and salvation lie on the razor's edge of decision and repentance. This is the danger and mystery of Christianity that forms the entire backbone of the genre and the weight prepackaged with it. This is what makes Gothic literature far more interesting and engaging than preachy sterilized Christian Fiction or the morally confused psychotherapy sessions of all those unsold copies of modern literary fiction lining the shelves of the closed bookstores.

To imply people like straightforward morality because gosh darn reality is just too hard is such an overwhelmingly arrogant perspective that I wonder if the writer ever spoke to a Christian in his life before writing this passage. Science fiction writers tend to write a lot about those filthy Christians without ever speaking to them, after all.

It makes sense, though. The irony of this swipe against black and white morality being written it the 1970s, the most morally dead decade of the 20th century, is unconsciously funny.

I don't think I need to imagine the writer's reaction to Star Wars when it came out later that year. The audience showed once again what they really want. It only proves how horrendously wrong this viewpoint was, even though fandom hangs on it to this day. Now Star Wars is getting warped into grey slime and the audience is leaving that, too. It only proves how far things have fallen since this book was written.

That is where I will leave you for now. We walked through the beginnings of genre fiction and the Gothic novel and saw just where the connections between the genres were and just who it was that fought to have them splintered and rendered impotent on a large scale. There is more to come!

Next we will see just where the latter days of the pulp era steered the genre and just where it ended up. Utopian dream or dystopic reality?

We shall see.


  1. This has been one of your best writings so far. I don't know if I can really add anything but to quote this part:

    The Gothic is the beating bloody heart in any good traditional romance story and is what gives it the universal core so needed in fiction. White against black. Dark against Light. Hero against Villain. Eternal Life against Endless Death. Temptation against Virtue. It goes beyond the surface into weighty themes of the Ultimate, God, and True Justice. The knowledge of a battle between forces beyond both parties at play that haunt the scenery and the overall world behind the story. It underpins every action and decision, and the thought that salvation or damnation is a stone throw away is the most nail-biting experience of them all.


  2. One aspect of pulp worth mentioning that those poser-hipster-autumn people never do or get: fun.

    Just recently I revisited Back to the Future -trilogy which I hadn't seen since junior high, that is in over ten years. Man, movies used to be fun. Those are as good lighthearted adventure films as you can get.

    1. It's a genuine sort of fun that has been lost. It's all post-modern ironic winking hipsterism "fun" which just translates to light junk without any weight. BTTF works because for as fun as it is they believe in what they're doing and go all out with it.

    2. Same goes with Ghostbusters. It's a comedy, but takes it's own story seriously. There are even some genuinely scary moments which is pretty unique for a genre flick of that sorts. But then, I don't think they were focused on making a good genre piece rather than a good movie.

    3. Or the Fraser version of the Mummy. Apparently the Directorial vision was "We joke about everything, but never the Mummy. Imhotep's always supposed to be scary." meaning that it comes across as a great Supernatural Adventure story because we subconsciously feel we can laugh and joke around with our hero, but the villain is an otherwordly threat.

  3. Wow, this was such a great post. Gave me so much to think of, cleared away some confusions I had with the Gothic genre, and articulated some thoughts I had about the pulps and the themes of good and evil that constantly get bashed by modern "intellectuals". Now I am very interested in classic gothic works.

    "The Gothic tale and Marchen romance eventually collided again as writers tried to strip the supernatural from the stories to replace with sexual content, as is man's first thought when it comes to anything creative outside of heroism or God. What was once a genre about good men against bad men in a world haunted by sin and death was slowly becoming a genre of broken men in a broken world haunted by their own broken reflection. It was becoming more insular and self-obsessed."

    This articulates well why I did not like The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The entire story is about the sexual repression of one woman disguised as gothic horror, and it was mind-numbingly boring and unimaginative.

    Great job! Looking forward to part two.

    1. Garrett, lives you still?

      Anyway, since you mentioned The Haunting of Hill House, I think the recent Netflix-miniseries was pretty good. I haven't read the book so I have no opinion on that. But the miniseries, while heavy at the psychological front, did well with the gothic atmosphere.

    2. Thank you!

      Yes, I had much the same reaction reading that book. It was clever, but there isn't much underneath the service aside from selfish people looking out for themselves. The horror is pretty shallow.

    3. Shirley Jackson always came off like a low-energy Harlan Ellison. I will live to see her forgotton.

      And if we're diverting to pile on The Haunting of Hill House, let it be said that it can't hold a candle to Richard Matheson's Hell House (which I always confuse with the former and wind up disappointed when it's not the one getting adapted.) It refutes everything the former stands for. You get a worldly, condescending scientist, a fruity spiritualist girl who thinks sex, love, and niceness can save the world, and a frightened guy who knows better but is far too wishy-washy to make a stand. They all crumble when confronted with true demonic evil, which who knew? is real after all.

      Horror fiction was the last redoubt of morality in the 20th century fiction market.

  4. Returning to general audiences is what clearly needs to be done!

    I'm haunted by this quote about a modern anime, Yo-Kai Watch, re: its popularity:

    Even the president of Level-5, Akihiro Hino, was surprised by Yo-kai Watch's popularity. ...Explanations for its popularity ranged from catchy songs and dances,[76] to being something parents and kids could enjoy together,[70] to "weird adults" (emphasis mine) not being interested in it.[77]

    Fandom puts people OFF properties. The only way forward is to ignore it and appeal to the sensibilities of the masses. Boy am I pumped for the second part of this essay.

    You ever think about publishing a book of essays on this topic? It deserves a book, I think, and you seem up to it. And I'd love to be able to read this while holding something non-electronic in my hands!

    1. The whole fandom phenomenon is definitely one requiring research. The replacement of religion with pop culture started out slow but ramped up hard over the decades to where we have NEETs and hikikomori crawling all over, and SJWs who are committed to weaponizing nostalgia and storytelling to their brainwashing needs.

      It's hard to imagine it getting worse than this but I don't doubt it will.

    2. >replacement of religion with pop culture

      A Ukranian Catholic man recently complained to me about the growing ubiquity of the word "iconic" as a synonym for "cool." He found it offensive, since icons are meant for worship, and calling things like Led Zeppelin and Star Wars iconic blasphemously puts them tantamount to God.
      Unironically I think this is the point.

  5. And that true demonic evil, was genuinely demonic evil. It wasn't some Byronic thing with the aspiration of an adolescent fighting 'the man,' No, it was genuine monstrous /pettiness./

    I really wish we had more examples of evil creatures in the vein of Lewis' Un-Man. Ridiculously brilliant and intelligent, but the Byronic veneer is just a mask slapped over a miserable, evil and MEAN little cuss of a being.

  6. Linked to this from Brian Neiemeierere's blog.... fantastic. Thought I was the only one headed for cheap pulp paperbacks! I recommend Harold Lamb if you don't know him, major influence on REH, nice republished volumes put out in past decade.

    1. Thanks for the rec! I'm always adding stuff to the list. There's just so much I missed out on.

  7. Allow me a droll comment. Note the phrase "...our complicated age when nothing is purely black or white any longer" and note that is appears in the middle of a paragraph denouncing, that is, blackening, the concept that stories should take place against the backdrop of a purely black and white morality.

    So we are left with two options:
    1. White: "Stories that are not black and white."
    2. Black: "Stories that are."

    In a similar vein, I was recently upbraided for being binary in my thinking, on the grounds that binary thinking was bad, and nonbinary thinking was good.

    If an idea is one that even those who denounce it use while in the act of denouncing it, it is likely to be a sound idea.