Sunday, July 29, 2018

Colt 45 malt liquor ads

Bill Dee Williams
Colt 45 ads

The news that Billy Dee Williams will be reprising his role as Lando Calrissian in the next Star Wars movie can't help but be a step in the right direction, given the turkey that was The Last Jedi. Hopefully the script will give him a meaty part, one that stays true to the character.

Here you can find a series of clips of Bill Dee doing advertisements for Colt 45 malt liquor, likely from the early 1980s.

I remember the few times I drank Colt 45 back in the early 80s it left me with a severe hangover............but then again, maybe I was just a wuss.........?!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review: Lord Tyger

Book Review: 'Lord Tyger' by Philip Jose Farmer

3 / 5 Stars

‘Lord Tyger’ was first published in 1970; this Granada / Panther books paperback was published in the UK in 1985. The striking cover illustration is by Richard Clifton-Dey.

At the time he wrote ‘Lord Tyger’ Philip Jose Farmer was engrossed in composing adventures for the old pulp heroes he so treasured, so ‘Tyger’ can be seen as thematically belonging to the series comprising A Feast Unknown (1969) and Lord of the Trees (1970). ‘Tyger’ also can be read as something of a companion volume to Farmer’s 1972 book Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystroke, which is arguably the ultimate Fanboy Discourse on Tarzan.

As ‘Tyger’ opens our protagonist, Ras Tyger (‘Ras’ is Arabic for ‘Lord’) is perched in a tree and taunting the men of the Wantso tribe as they huddle in their fortified village, and scheme of a way to capture and kill this white-skinned, black-haired, gray-eyed jungle dweller yelling at them from just out of spear range.

It transpires that Ras Tyger likes the village’s women – who in turn are happy to reciprocate, since the practice of circumcision has rendered the Wantso men not only sterile, but Poor Performers. This village-wide cuckolding has left the Wantso men in an unpleasant mood.

Succeeding chapters detail Tyger’s conflict with the Wantso, as well as his increasing dissatisfaction with the explanations for his upbringing and the world around him given by his foster-parents Yusufu and Mariyam. Among the continuous stream of questions asked of them by Tyger are: Where did Tyger’s biological parents come from ? Why is there no one else in the jungle with white skin like Tyger’s ? What are the giant birds that occasionally fly above the jungle, with what appear to be angels riding inside the birds ? Why is there is a 1,000-foot tall stone pillar that rises to the skies from the lake in Tyger’s jungle realm, and why do the giant birds apparently nest atop this pillar ?

It’s not disclosing any spoilers to say that Ras Tyger is the unknowing participant in a massive experiment, one that promises all manner of revelations as he gradually learns the truth behind his seeming imprisonment in a massive terrarium carved out of the African wilderness……….

I finished ‘Lord Tyger’ with mixed emotions. The first half of the book is a slog, as author Farmer sparingly doles out the smaller revelations while exhaustively detailing Tyger’s war against the males of the Wantso tribe. The narrative does pick up more momentum in the second half of the book, although it is reliant on a regular dose of contrivances, some more eye-rolling than others.

While not a work of pornography like A Feast Unknown, ‘Lord Tyger’ does feature episodes of splatterpunk-style mayhem related in the same deadpan, almost droll prose style Farmer used in Feast. As well, being written in a politically incorrect era, it is highly likely that more than a few passages in the novel will be found to be misogynistic and racist by modern readers and critics. In my opinion, these two features of ‘Lord Tyger’ were what gave the book an edgy, transgressive character that made reading it worthwhile despite its other faults.

Summing up, ‘Lord Tyger’ is not as entertaining as A Feast Unknown. But those with a fondness for the Tarzan character, or Farmer’s reinterpretations of the classic pulp heroes, may find it worth acquiring.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Soldier of Fortune: Clouds of Blood

Soldier of Fortune
'Clouds of Blood'
by Alfredo Grassi (story) and Enrique Breccia (art)
from Merchants of Death No. 2, August 1988
Eclipse Comics

A new episode of the Alfredo Grassi comic 'Soldier of Fortune' appears in the second issue of Eclipse's magazine-sized comic book Merchants of Death

'Clouds of Blood' returns to the sun-blasted, amoral setting of Bolivia in 1905. This time our hero confronts a fateful transaction involving a local jefe and his rebellious daughter.......

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Second Earth

The Second Earth
by Patrick Woodroffe
Paper Tiger, 1987

'The Second Earth: The Pentateuch Re-Told' (144 pp) was issued by UK publisher Paper Tiger in 1987. Like all books from Paper Tiger, this is a well-made trade paperback with good quality paper stock and good quality reproductions of the artwork.

Patrick Woodroffe (1940 - 2014) was a well-known UK artist whose paintings and mixed-media works are familiar to anyone who read sci-fi and fantasy novels during the 70s.

In 1979 Woodroffe and his friend and colleague, the UK musician David Greenslade, collaborated on a multimedia project called The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony. Greenslade contributed a double album of instrumental music, and Woodroffe, a hardbound book of illustrations. You can listen to the music here.

'The Second Earth' provides an expanded showcase of Woodroffe's artwork for The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony.

The story's premise is one of sci-fi, mixed with mysticism. In 2378 a kilometer-long alien spaceship, labeled the Hermes, is discovered in orbit around Saturn. A UN expedition to the spacecraft discovers it is unmanned. A treasure trove of documents, written in alien script, are found inside the ship; their translation forms the basis of the narrative.

'The Second Earth' relates the mythology and creation tales of the humanoid culture that gave rise to the Hermes. The accompanying artwork is chosen to illustrate various aspects of these creation tales, which are similar in tone to those of ancient cultures here on Earth.

Without disclosing any spoilers, I'll state that as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the travails of the civilization piloting the Hermes have profound implications for the fate of Mankind and the planet upon which we reside.

'The Second Earth' is something of a disappointment. While Woodroffe's efforts to move beyond being an artist into also being a writer are in some sense to be congratulated, the truth is that his prose is less than inspiring. The main narrative of 'The Second Earth' is obtuse and not very readable. 

The Appendix, which details the alien race's cuneiform language, is designed to mimic a scholarly monograph; this is a chore to wade through. 

Since no editorial assistance is acknowledged in the book's opening pages, it seems that Woodroffe did not enlist such assistance when writing 'The Second Earth'. If this was indeed the case, it's unfortunate, because editorial oversight likely would have made the book much more coherent and engaging.  

The artwork presented in the book certainly is excellent, although having to be cropped or shrunk in order to accommodate the text means that readers over a certain age will likely need glasses in order to make out some of the smaller illustrations, as well as the more intricate details of the larger reproductions.

The verdict ? 'The Second Earth' represents Woodroffe's ambitions to synthesize art, literature, and music into an imaginative new direction; that said, sometimes the transition from artist to writer is not so easily done. 'The Second Earth' succeeds in some degree as a showcase for Woodroffe's artistic talents, but his prose is not up to the task. Given that books like Mythopoeikon and Hallelujah Anyway, which are dedicated solely to Woodroffe's art, are readily available for affordable prices, I really can only recommend 'The Second Earth' to Woodroffe completists.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Don Juan Matus

Don Juan Matus
artist unknown

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book Review: Mirrorshades

Book Review: 'Mirrorshades' 
edited by Bruce Sterling

4 / 5 stars

‘Mirrorshades’ first was published by Arbor House in 1986; this Ace Books paperback version (239 pp) was issued in July 1988. The cover artist is uncredited.

I remember reading ‘Mirrorshades’ back in 1988 and thinking it was one of the better sf anthologies I’d ever read. How does it hold up when examined again 30 years later ? 

Very well, in fact.

‘Mirrorshades’ contains stories that can be considered ‘First Generation’ cyberpunk. As editor Bruce Sterling states in his Preface, in selecting entries for the book he decided to go with lesser-known stories over more frequently anthologized selections. 

All of the entries first were published between 1981 – 1986, many in Omni magazine.

My capsule summaries of the contents:

The Gernsback Continuum, by William Gibson: a photographer finds himself having peculiar hallucinations brought about by documenting crumbling architecture in the Southwest. While it doesn’t adhere very closely to the traditional cyberpunk tropes, 'Gernsback' stands the test of time as an imaginative and effective sci-fi story.

Snake Eyes, by Tom Maddox: a former soldier finds himself tormented by the AI installed in his skull. The author’s tendency to belabor the damaged state of his characters gets tedious as the story unfolds, and 'Snake Eyes' suffers as a result.

Rock On, by Pat Cadigan: Even when down and out, a singer refuses to compromise her dedication to Rock music..........and by extension, Art. 

I’ve always considered Cadigan to be one of the more underwhelming authors designated as a 'cyberpunk author', and this brief tale doesn’t do much to change my mind.......the fact of the matter is that John Shirley (below) is superior at doing the whole 'rock-and-roll angst' trope.

Tales of Houdini by Rudy Rucker: the legendary escape artist decides to take on some uniquely hazardous challenges. 

This story is one of the best in the anthology, and one of the best to emerge from the genre’s First Generation. On the surface it’s the type of fantasy tale that the New Wave authors of the 70s tried time and time again to perfect (usually without success). It’s telling that Rucker not only does what they wanted to do, but completely surpasses them within the limitations of a story that is only six pages long............!

400 Boys, by Marc Laidlaw: Inner-city gang-bangers confront an otherworldly threat. Another of the better entries in the anthology. ‘400’ is just as surreal as Rucker’s story, but at the same time, its prose style stays grounded, and (unlike so many New Wave tales) this one has a coherent plot.

Solstice, by James Patrick Kelly: a designer drug guru and his Close Companion struggle to achieve a Meaningful Relationship. There are some interesting ideas in this story, but unfortunately it gradually collapses under the weight of trying to say Something Insightful about the Human Condition.

Petra, by Greg Bear: another surrealistic entry, this time about medieval demons and devils brought to life in the aftermath of The Singularity. I didn’t find it as effective as the entries by Rucker and Laidlaw.

Till Human Voices Wake Us, by Lewis Shiner: a company man on vacation in Belize makes a startling discovery. A competent, if not particularly remarkable, tale.

Freezone, by John Shirley: this novelette is actually an excerpt from Shirley’s novel Eclipse, the first volume in the so-called A Song of Youth trilogy. 

Given that the stories immediately preceding it are not ‘traditional’ cyberpunk, the placement of ‘Freezone’ at this position in the anthology is crucial in reminding the reader what the core tropes of the genre are all about. Rockers, druggies, smugglers, corporate assassins, and deviants all mix and mingle in the eponymous city-state erected on a gigantic raft in the Atlantic. ‘Freezone’ remains quintessential, undiluted, 100-proof Cyberpunk and that’s a good thing.

Stone Lives, by Paul Di Filippo: another traditional cyberpunk tale, and another of the better entries in the anthology: a man is transported from the mean streets of a decayed New York City to more wealthy environs, where he discovers he’s been assigned an unusual mission by a mysterious patron.

Red Star, Winter Orbit, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling: Cosmonauts confront the scheduled end of their terms on an obsolescent Russian space station. This story just doesn’t do all that much for me.

Mozart in Mirrorshades, by Bruce Sterling and Lewis Shiner: what happens when we can time travel to 18th century Salzburg, and there’s no such thing as a Prime Directive ? This is one of those rare times when a collaboration brings out the best in each author. ‘Mozart’ is not only one of the best tales in the anthology, but one of the best cyberpunk stories ever written.

The verdict ? While it has its share of less impressive entries, ‘Mirrorshades’ still can lay claim to being not just the best cyberpunk anthology ever published, but one of the best sci-fi anthologies ever published.

Having read more sci-fi anthologies than I like to think about, with most of them originating in the 60s and 70s, I can confidently say that ‘Mirrorshades’ beats any volume from any of them: Orbit, Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year, Year’s Best SF, New Dimensions, Nebula Award Stories, Dangerous Visions, Quark, Universe, Stellar, etc. etc.

Unfortunately, both the hardcover and the paperback versions of 'Mirrorshades' are long out of print and those copies that are listed for sale at the usual online outlets are exorbitantly priced (namely, $25 and up for a paperback in good condition). All I can recommend is to keep an eye out for a reasonably priced copy at any used bookstore you happen to patronize ( in April, I picked up a copy in Very Good condition for $3.50 from Hole in the Wall Books in Falls Church, Virginia).

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Red Rover, Red Rover by Tim A. Conrad

Red Rover, Red Rover
by Tim A. Conrad
from Thrillogy No. 1, January 1984, Pacific Comics
Another entry from the 'Thrillogy' anthology, featuring work by comics legend Tim A. Conrad. 

The color separations and printing technology of the mid-80s can't really do full justice to Conrad's artwork, but still and all it's a nice little sci-fi tale.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Way by Major Harris

Major Harris
'My Way'
Atlantic Records, 1975

In the late Spring and early Summer of 1975, 'Love Won't Let Me Wait' by Major Harris (February 1947 - November 2012) was in heavy rotation on the radio and had reached the top five on both the pop and soul charts.

Although 'Love Won't Let Me Wait' was the standout song from Harris's 1975 album My Way, there were a number of other notable tracks on the album, including what I regard as one of the greatest disco songs ever made:  'Each Morning I Wake Up'.

The 8 minute version of the song is available here.

Harris released a followup album in 1978, How Do You Take Your Love, which unfortunately didn't have the success of My Way. Harris returned to the Delfonics and participated in the group's live shows until his death from heart failure at age 65.

A collection of Harris's songs are available at YouTube and demonstrate his skill as a smooth-groove Soul Man. The spoken intro to 'I Got Over Love' is pure 70s 'soul gold'. 

And the album cover art for My Way (which, unfortunately, is uncredited) is outstanding. It's a perfect combination of Art Deco and Superfly-style chic, and something that only the 70s could have spawned.............

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Book Review: In the Flesh

Book Review: 'In the Flesh' by Clive Barker
4 / 5 Stars

The four novellas / short stories that make up 'In the Flesh' first were published in 1986 in the UK as The Books of Blood: Volume 5. This Pocket Books paperback (255 pp) repackaging of these stories for a U.S. readership was published in January, 1988, and features cover art by Jim Warren.

In the title novella, Cleve, an inmate in a British prison, gets a new cellmate, a young man named William 'Billy' Tait. Cleve soon discovers that Billy Tait has the ability to exit the cell and wander in another dimension during the hours of darkness. 

This is the weakest entry in the collection; although the premise is an interesting one, Barker doesn't do much with it other than to paint word pictures of strange, twilight landscapes.

'The Forbidden' is the novelette that formed the basis of the 1992 feature film Candyman. A graduate student named Helen Buchanan, who is writing her thesis on 'Graffitti: The Semiotics of Urban Despair', investigates a notorious murder committed in a public restroom at a decaying Liverpool apartment complex. 

This novelette has stood the test of time as a classic 80s horror tale. While Ramsey Campell, another well-known, Liverpool- based horror writer, often used the urban areas of the city as a backdrop for his stories written during the 70s and 80s, Barker is head and shoulders above him with his own skillful use of the setting of a trash-strewn, vandalized housing project as an apt setting for a creepy story.

In 'The Madonna', Jerry Coloqhuon, an aspiring dealmaker, tries to persuade a local mobster named Ezra Garvey to invest in an abandoned swimming pool and bathing complex. But both Coloqhuon and Garvey are astounded to discover that within the dark and humid corridors of the complex lurks a group of nubile young women whose ministrations have a dark purpose.........this is another of the standout entries in 'In the Flesh', with the dilapidated pool complex being a particularly effective setting for a horror tale. 

The closing story, 'Babel's Children', takes place in Greece, where a vacationing Vanessa Jape finds herself lost in a remote area well off the beaten path. Seeking directions, Jape stumbles upon what seems to be a convent, only to learn that this seemingly tranquil structure is all that stands between world peace....... and World War Three. 'Babel's Children' is not really a horror story, but more of an entry in the genre of sardonic-humor tale that Roald Dahl was particularly skillful at creating. 

The verdict ? More than 30 years after its publication, 'In the Flesh' remains a strong collection of horror stories and a good reminder of Barker's skills as a writer. His fans will of course want to have a copy of either this U.S. paperback, or its UK equivalent. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Gold Digger by Moebius

The Gold Digger
by Moebius
from the Summer 1987 issue of Heavy Metal magazine