Monday, November 30, 2015

The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1916): A Review




Late last night I completed the second book in Sax Rohmer’s series about the fiendish, master-criminal Dr. Fu-Manchu and it was exactly the pulp tale I expected to be. That was not meant to be an insult. I love the old pulps and I don’t read them for their literary merit, but for their momentary diversion they provide with their outlandish, exaggerated tales of heroic exploits, over-the-top villains, and heroes that are either muscular (Conan of Cimmeria), intellectual (Sherlock Holmes) or both (Doc Savage). And of course throw damsels that are either innocent victims or deadly enemies into the mix and you have...well at least for me...a few hours of entertainment.

Of course, the old pulps are also politically incorrect, but if you have a rebel streak and are neither affected or offended by views of the dead, unchangeable past, the faux pas are easily ignored.

In The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1916), we return to the London of Dr. Petrie, the erstwhile friend of Sir Denis Nayland Smith, a colonial police commissioner in Burma. In the first book, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, Fu-Manchu is introduced as an agent and assassin for a Chinese secret society called the Si-Fan. Throughout the tale, Fu-Manchu causes a lot of problems for Smith and Petrie and at the end, Fu-Manchu’s plans have been thwarted and he has escaped back to China. Now, three years later, Petrie has resumed his medical practice in London and Smith is back in Burma, but Fu-Manchu is not dead and his threats and danger are very present and very real.

The only irritation I have about the early stories is the incredible ease by which Smith and Petrie fall into Fu-Manchu’s traps. In Chapter 28, Fu-Manchu actually goes into a traditional villain’s monologue mocking them for their stupidity in falling for his traps time and again, never learning from their past mistakes.

And that is before Fu-Manchu introduces the readers and Smith to the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom, an ingenious torture device consisting of a segmented body cage and the introduction of four starved rats.
“In China,” resumed Fu-Manchu, “we call this quaint fancy the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom. The first gate, by which the rats are admitted, is called the Gate of Joyous Hope; the second, the Gate of Mirthful Doubt. The third gate is poetically named the Gate of True Rapture, and the fourth, the Gate of Gentle Sorrow. I once was honored in the friendship of an exalted mandarin who sustained the course of Joyful Wisdom to the raising of the Fifth Gate (called the Gate of Sweet Desires) and the admission of the twentieth rat. I esteem him almost equally with my ancestors. The Sixth, or Gate Celestial—whereby a man enters into the Joy of Complete Understanding—I have dispensed with…
Yeah, this is a great pulp series that in spite of its flaws can still thrill the reader.

On August 5th, 2010, I started logging what books I read. The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu is #214.

You can learn more about the literary and cinematic world of Dr. Fu-Manchu here and here. You can read The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu legally free here and here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Prince of Darkness (1987): A Review


Mild spoilers follow.
 

Prince of Darkness (1987) is a guilty pleasure of mine, an odd, surreal horror film directed by John Carpenter and reuniting the director with actors, Dennis Dunn and the late Victor Wong, both of which also appeared in Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China released the year before. The late, great Donald Pleasance also reunited with Carpenter for Prince of Darkness, the two having first worked together on the set of Halloween (1978). Shock rocker, Alice Cooper, even makes an appearance as a possessed homeless person.

Though the premise of the film is intriguing, the film itself is deeply flawed. In the opening scenes, Professor Howard Birack (Wong) looks into the daytime sky to watch the moon and the sun come together for an eclipse. That night, student Brian Marsh (Jameson Parker), looks up at the full moon. This scene is actually repeated during the film. Not astronomically possible.

We are supposed to believe that Jameson Parker’s character as well as his love interest are college students even though both were 30 years old at the time and show their age.

Donald Pleasance, playing a Roman Catholic priest, types out a letter and his hands are clearly not on the keyboard.

When Pleasance's Father Loomis (he is named only in the script) and Professor Birack enter the crypt under the church, there are candles burning…hundreds of them and yet the church has been deserted for days if not weeks. The film is full of these fun little flaws.

Donald Pleasance brings a presence that without him would just be a silly little movie
But what I like about this film is that it is one that can honestly be placed solidly in the canon of Lovecraftian fiction. Lovecraftian elements of the film are:
  1. The premise of the film solidly embraces the sheer materialism of H.P. Lovecraft in that all metaphysical and supernatural phenomenons are nothing more than science taking place on a quantum level where it can be analyzed and understood. Satan has a physical reality. Jesus was nothing more than a physical being from another planet or dimension who tried to warn Earth about Satan. 
  2. Satan's father was "a god who once walked the earth before Man that was somehow banished to the dark side," a description very similar to the gods of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos.
  3. The Brotherhood of Sleep, a secret Roman Catholic order that has the job of overlooking the incarnation of Satan (a large eerie crystal tube of swirling green liquid). 
  4. The Brotherhood has a big weird book written in Latin, Coptic, Greek, and “numbers” reminiscent of Lovecraft’s famous Necronomicon. 
  5. The universe is not a safe place for humans or logic. From a lecture by Professor Birack: "Say goodbye to classical reality because our logic collapses on the subatomic level into ghosts and shadows... While order does exist in the universe, it is not at all what we had in mind."
  6. Dreams are a gateway to other realities. When asleep, characters receive messages from the year 1999 via “tachyon transmissions” warning them of the impending global disaster coming from within the church itself. 
  7. And the atmosphere of the film with its increasing dread where a team of professionals (like Lovecraft's professors at his Miskatonic University) fight a malignant force.
This is Satan. Really.
As I said, the film is flawed. Most of the characters are there simply to die in interesting and graphic manners, but there are some scenes that are incredibly powerful, such as the first time Father Loomis and Professor Birack encounter the huge cylinder of swirling green liquid. In fact, I believe that it is Pleasance and Wong who carry the film in its entirety. If not for those two actors and their powerful ability to put a grave atmosphere on a flawed film, nobody would ever remember the movie. Whenever they are in camera, the movie shines.

All in all, I cannot recommend the film, but for some people like me, spotting the rare gem amongst the gravel makes the movie an interesting momentary diversion.
Out of 13 characters, guess which four live to see the end of the film.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Sinister Minister's Thanksgiving Confession

I repost this every Thanksgiving without apology, and, yes, I'm a member of the ordained clergy.

However, I will apologize to Edgar Allen Poe for reasons you will soon discover...



The Sinister Minister's Thanksgiving Confession
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


It has now been a good ten years and I feel this desire to unburden myself of secrets.

Anyway, there is little that any of you can do. You all live far away and most will treat my tale as a jest, so ironically even in the midst of confession, my secret is still safe.

We talked in the privacy of my office, the day before Thanksgiving.

He was a newcomer to our congregation. He glared at me, pale and cadaverous with eyes that burned with the fervent heat of fanaticism.

“Pardon the dust,” I said. “We’re remodeling the church.”

Intent as he was on his rant, he ignored me and the dust even though an occasional sneeze would interrupt his diatribe.

“I insist on addressing the church, this Sunday,” he said, his fist weakly pounding his knee as he spoke. “From the pulpit! You shock me, pastor, and I am deeply offended! Last Sunday you spoke on Thanksgiving as a holiday, even a holy day. You let an opportunity to teach a lesson on true holiness to those gibbering simps pass you by. Even now, they are out at the stores buying turkey and pumpkin and yams by the bushel so their unproductive elderly and their squalling brats can shovel food into their mouths. Well, what about the third worlders who today will only have corn bread? What about the freshwater porpoises? What about the labor practices in South America?”

I nodded in feigned sympathy. “Our church,” I explained, “places a large amount of its budget into charity. Though I confess we do not have a world impact, our local circle of influence is quite large.”

“Not enough!” he screamed. “Not enough! Do those hypocrites still drive cars that burn gasoline? Do they still have their thermostats set above 60 degrees? Do they still eat organic meat?”

“Well, they are almost all hardworking farmers and have been for generations …”

“Soybeans! Soybeans make tofu! They could grow organic soybeans!”

“May we walk as we talk?” I asked. “I did promise to inspect the masonry work.”

He stood up from his chair to follow me while gesticulating wildly. “And why are we wasting money adding on to a building? This certainly is not the church that Peter and Paul would have attended!”

We wandered the dusty hallways to where the workers had stopped for the day and gone home to their Thanksgiving preparations. As my companion ranted and raved, I inspected a recently completed concrete wall.

“Forgive me,” I said casually interrupting my companion, “but this workmanship here has me concerned for safety reasons. Could you help me test it? Just stand there.”

I laced a steel chain through the eyelet of a restraining bolt wrapped it around my companion and passed it through the eye of another. A few moments work was all it took.

“What … what are you doing?” my companion stuttered.

“I believe that because of my sad and selfish bourgeois attitudes, I have driven these poor manual laborers--these poor day laborers--to produce shoddy and dangerous workmanship. Please tug on these chains. If their work is truly inferior, I can protect them and their reputation from the building inspector and they can still keep their jobs.”

My companion tugged on the chains. Years of fanatically strict fruitarianism had weakened him to the point of inability to put up much of a resistance.

“Well, they seem strong enough,” he said. “Now please release me.”

I picked up a concrete block and laid it on the tile floor in front of him. “You were talking about Thanksgiving. What should I do with the turkey and other comestibles my arrogant wife is preparing for my greedy family?”

Freshly primed, he launched into a plan to drop ship the entire meal into either the Third World or New Jersey with an ingenious contrivance of fair trade Styrofoam packing and dry ice.

I let him ramble on as I worked on my job of creating a second wall.

It was now five o’clock in the evening, and my companion still droned on how eating Thanksgiving turkey contributed to global warming.

Yet, my own task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier of concrete blocks. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of my noble, altruistic companion. The voice said --

"Ha! ha! ha! -- he! he! -- a very good joke indeed -- an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it during church -- he! he! he! -- over our chicory coffee -- he! he! he!"

"Thankgiving!" I said.

"He! he! he! -- he! he! he! -- yes, Thanksgiving . But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting you at home, your lady and the rest? I could treat you to some organic miso. Let us be gone."

"Yes," I said "let us be gone."

"FOR THE LOVE OF … "

"Yes," I said, "for love!"

I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I put an old Sunday School flannelgraph. For the last decade no mortal has disturbed it. After all, who uses flannelgraphs anymore?

The church’s janitor complains that for the last ten years on the eve of every Thanksgiving she finds a small paper plate with two Saltine crackers next to a paper cup of water before the wall they built in the education wing. The one they built ten years ago.

I simply shrug my shoulders.

So on Thanksgiving, I hope that all of us, without guilt, will enjoy a hearty time of fellowship and celebration around a table groaning under the weight of food. And that once a year, we taste a little of heaven and relax and enjoy the camaraderie and the closeness of loved ones in spite of our mutual humanity.

Especially my own very weak humanity.

But if you find yourself railing against this simple annual pleasure and your thoughts of disgust and self-righteousness and contempt mar the celebration for others, please come visit me in my office and explain it all in detail.

Just forgive the dust in my office. We’re remodeling the church.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Is Your Life Magical? No, It's Something Better

The constellation of Orion the Hunter
Last night the heavens were crystal clear in their aspect and Orion, my favorite constellation, was a spatter of diamonds and rubies and sapphires that would have put the most illustrious jewelry store to shame.

The right shoulder of Orion is made up of a star with the name, Betelgeuse

Betelgeuse is 643 light years away and because it is a red supergiant it is so huge that if it was to trade places with our own Sol, the surface of Betelgeuse would almost swallow up Saturn. 

As I delighted in its beauty, the photons of light that struck my retinas had left the surface of that star in Anno Domini 1372, when Britain and France started wrapping of the 100 Year War. Columbus' discovery of the Americas was not to happen for another 120 years.

Because of its size and instability, at some point Betelgeuse will become a Type II supernova. In the fury of its death throes, the light will be so bright that for a short period of time, Earth will enjoy a second sun in the daytime sky, or if the star is visible in the night sky, we will have a light brighter than the full moon.

Actually, Betelgeuse may have already perished, but because of the distance, even though the star is already spinning into a dead neutron star, because light only travels 186,000 miles a second, we will not be aware of the loss of Orion's right shoulder until 643 years after the event.

The night sky is filled with such incredible stories of magnificence.

So is your life filled with magic? No. Something better.

It's filled with wonder.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Ultimate Role-Playing Game. Wanna Play?

(Note: I posted this on an old blog many years ago and I want to warn you that I got a lot of negative feedback on it. However, I still like the concept because just consider this for a moment. What if your life really could be an adventure?)

I was reading an article on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test results and I thought of my counseling model and how everybody fulfills certain important roles.

Huh! I thought to myself, life is nothing but a big role-playing game!

PARADIGM SHIFT

I suddenly had a vision of you, gentle reader, sitting around a gaming table filled with the brick-a-brac of role-playing games: dice, pencils, paper, rule-books, little figurines, maps. I was there too along with all your friends. The Game Master (GM) sat in shadows.

We had played every RPG in existence. We had plumbed deep space, deep dungeons, and our minds. We were nothing but jaded players who had wore out all the novelty and we longed for the time when we first thought of the concept with the rush of excitement, the camaraderie, the unfettered rush of our creativity.

Now we sit in the gloom of the gaming room, but suddenly the GM makes us an offer of another game, a different game, one suitable only for an experienced player like you and me.

A tiny, nondescript box, smaller than your hand, is slid to you across the table. It is unmarked except for a small yellow button in its middle. To push it, the GM explains, is to enter the most creative role-playing game in the universe, but once the button is pushed, you must play the game to its completion. The rules are both simple and complex, but the game is in a free-form style. There is still a GM, but now it will be more up to you to decide in far more detail how you will live in the game. A character will be designed for you, but once the game starts, you have the freedom to do whatever you wish within the parameters of the simple and sane game rules. "And," the GM says, "the game is going to give you challenges that will make the past ones I've given you look like children's playground stuff."

Do you dare push the little button? If so, read on.

Congratulations, bold player.

You push the button and you find yourself within the game, sitting at the very computer in front of your computer, sitting in this body you now occupy, reading these very words on the screen before you with all the memories, experience, talents, and abilities you now have. You may not have liked the way you were rolled out (who has ever rolled out a perfect character?), but you have some ability to change those statistics.

Welcome to the game which is already in progress. You know the rules.

Time to play.

What's your first move?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Somewhere Across The Multiverse, You Are An Evil Despot...Sounds Like Fun!

Not a complaint, but a lunatic observation about quantum mechanics. Last night, and I will not illuminate on the story, as I sat in a formal dining room, to the amusement of the surrounding tables and the stunned expressions on the faces of my parents, I received a public tongue lashing and I could not reason with the individual that lacking divine attributes such as omniscience, I could not have known what the angry individual claimed I should have known. In fact, it later turned out to be nothing but a serious misunderstanding and miscommunication between other people that involved neither me nor my parents.

This blog is meant to be light and silly and promote my writing, but in truth, my real life is already filled with madness and deadlines and sorrow and moments of sheer terror, so comparing the angry individual in relation to my real responsibilities, I blew it off as an insignificant event in comparison. Yet on the lengthy drive home I entertained an intriguing fantasy.

Quantum physics, or quantum mechanics or quantum whatever, presents an intriguing theory that we live in a universe that is merely one of many. One theory states that we are copied in multiple universes and for all practical purposes we all have a doppelganger that occupies every possible niche of existence.

As I drove home on the dark foggy roads of Michaux State Forest keeping an eye out for suicidal deer, I contemplated somewhere in the multiverse, my doppelganger sits at a table ruling as a barbarian despot. As I bang my oversized turkey leg on the cracked and warped wooden table and demand my massive mug be filled once again, I scream for my chattel to bring out the dancing bears. As I bray with laughter nobody dares raise their voice to me less they be turned into kibble for my dire wolves.

I chuckled at the mental image and for a scant second I entertained the seductive allure of careless evil, but, he says with a sigh, it matters not. In this universe, I have serious work to do, promises to keep, and loved ones with genuine needs that must be met.

You do too, so get cracking, but for a moment entertain the thought that another version of you somewhere across the multiverses (IF the theory has any merit) is having a ball. Then raise your coffee cup to your dopplegangers across the multiple cosmoses before returning to your unique and singular life in this one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Strange Streets (Another Sample For Your Enjoyment)

Strange Streets is up to 2,000 words, probably the most I've written (as far as writing fiction) in the last two or three months.

"I love the madness my life has become," he said sarcastically.

Anyway, James and Darcy have continued their foray into a very strange part of Carlisle, Pennsylvania and James is getting rather weirded out.

The first sample is here. Another new unedited sample follows. Enjoy.

 *******

“James, look!” Darcy pointed down at the stream that flowed under the bridge. “What is that?”

Floating lazily in the water, a large fish, similar to a Japanese koi, broke the surface and looked up at us. A part of me, some alien observer deep within my brain, nonchalantly noted that it had to have been at least six feet long and its purple scales with streaks of green formed a color pattern I had never seen on any other fish in this world.

“We need to leave, Darcy,” I repeated. “We need to go back. Now.”

Darcy ignored me. She stood alert, her gaze fastened on a shop on the other side of the bridge. She whispered something, but all I could catch were the words, “here before.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Strange Streets (Urban Fantasy in Carlisle, Pennsylvania)

Last week I found myself wandering the streets of Carlisle in south-central Pennsylvania marveling at the little odd shops and boutiques: doll stores, oriental noodle restaurants, stores that sold women's fashions modeled on those of the 1920s, and the seeds of a story began to germinate in my fevered little brain.

Life has become very busy with major responsibilities and I've temporarily retired my novel, Doll Wars, but I still have time to play with the short story format. Strange Streets is about a young man and his cousin exploring the streets of Carlisle and they find themselves in ... well let's say they find themselves in the odd part of town.

My only dilemma is that I'm torn between three very different endings.

Here's an unedited sample of the story itself:

*************

Yet, before I could come to the full realization of what I was seeing, Darcy had floated to the next window, I obediently following in her wake.'

The next window contained smoking pipes, but ones of a style and material I had never seen before. Odd arabesques of what appeared to be wood and meerschaum created fantastic structures barely serviceable for their intended use.

Open wooden boxes of what I first took to be tobacco lay scattered about the display, but this time my Darcy-befuddled brain saw through to see the absurdity of their contents. “Surely, they don’t mean to smoke that!” I said.

Darcy narrowed her eyes and peered through the window at the display. “Why is that, James?”

“It’s not tobacco,” I said. “Look, those are dried ferns there and that one is nothing more than a box filled with tiny flowers. And, see? Over there are dried mushrooms.”

“Maybe,” Darcy said after a moment’s pause, “they are there only for display?”

I laughed. “Then they are carrying the joke a little too far. They have prices per ounce on each box. I bet the police watch this place closely.”

As Darcy led me away to the next window, I saw out of the corner of my eye movement deep within the interior shadows of the store. The silhouette was certainly human, but something about it gave me a moment’s pause as if there was something slightly wrong about the store owner whose outline I had glimpsed. Probably, I thought with a burst of dark humor, the proprietor has been sampling his own wares.

The next store had in its display window a simple pile of broken tree branches. I looked at Darcy and shrugged.

“Maybe they are for artistic arrangements?” she mused aloud.

I laughed. “Carlisle is a college town. Heaven knows what oddities they sell and why.”




Monday, November 16, 2015

H. P. Lovecraft on Inspiration



What Lovecraft defined as horror, today is defined as dark fantasy. The violence in Lovecraft was more subdued and took place either off stage or, more effectively, in the reader's imagination that made the mental picture far more terrifying. His quest was for atmosphere and using words as tools to impact the imagination with a mixture of dread and fascination.

Personally, my best ideas come from wandering tiny odd streets, strolling through first-growth forests, exploring eccentric little bookstores, or walking through an old country lane under a darkening slate-gray sky.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

H. P. Lovecraft on Libraries

It appears the Old Gentleman From Providence and I have something very much in common.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Vacation Tickets Just Arrived Today

That's not a lamp behind me. It's the sheer power of the novels shining through. Really! ;-)

Way too poor to take a traditional vacation, James Stoddard's new editions of The High House and The False House arrived in the post today and they will act as a perfect substitute. Together, the two novels make up the award-winning Evenmere series and are part of my list of Top Five fantasy novels.

If you can't find me for the next week, I'm taking a well deserved vacation.

Here is my review of The High House that I posted back in 2007:
I do not yet know what book has been kicked out of my Top Five list, but one has in order to make room for James Stoddard's The High House (Aspect Fantasy: 1998).

Imagine if you will, a huge mansion that within its walls and halls and rooms holds worlds upon worlds, mysteries upon mysteries, with no end in sight. Imagine a Master of the House with three main responsibilities: maintain order within the House's myriad realms; protect all of this creation against the Anarchists, a group of people dedicated to overthrowing the house; and maintain a balance between Old Man Chaos and Lady Order, two archetypes that dwell within the house and in their absoluteness are creatures of surprising horror. Also, imagine a house where the Last Dinosaur, untamed and hungry, lives in the attic and the basement is filled with man-eating creatures that disguise themselves as furniture.

And there is still much, much more.

The High House is not a Christian allegory per se. It is a powerfully written novel set in a fantasy world that just happens to take place within a Christian worldview:
" ... like all of Creation, the High House is a Parable. As for who built it, some say God is the Great Architect; some say the Grand Engineer." Brittle gave his wry smile. "And some say He once was a carpenter as well. I can explain no better."
Yet, the message of the book is not beaten into you with a crowbar, but explained gently within the relationships of those who have been given the responsibility of caring for the High House.

I have always been an avid fan of supernatural houses and The High House now forms part of my mental neighborhood sharing property lines with Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, Richard Forsythe's Bishop's Landing, and Charles de Lint's Tamson House (Moonheart).

The High House is a nice place to visit and you just might want to live there.


(No, I get no perks or benefits by providing links so you can buy your own copies. I just want people to read some very excellent fantasy.)

Friday, November 13, 2015

"Have you found the Yellow Sign?"



When I moved my parents two months ago, my father gave me a box of brick-a-brac that contained two of these very small, yet curious lapel pins.

Either my father was a member of a secret society and my life is now measured in hours or somehow, I have found the Yellow Sign.
"a curious symbol or letter in gold. It was neither Arabic or Chinese, nor as I found afterwards did it belong to any human script". ~ Robert Chambers, The King in Yellow
And if the latter, my ending shall not be a pleasant one, for when one receives the Yellow Sign, the Phantom of Truth is summoned to claim it accompanied by the sound of creaking hearse wheels. I shall listen for it tonight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In Praise of Old Books

Artist Unknown


Contrary to what I wrote on Monday, November 9th, it was not until this morning I was able to crack open my latest treasure, an old 1961 edition of Sax Rohmer's The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Carefully, I took the book from its protective cover and when I opened it, from its slightly yellowed pages came that aroma that one finds only from old paperbacks. To me, it is the alchemical essence that foreshadows a journey to another world.

With the opening sentence, I was immediately transported to London in the year 1916 to an England oddly ignorant of the first World War, but involved in another terrible conflict with an evil mastermind.

It opens in the study of Dr. James Petrie entertaining the Rev. J. D. Eltham:
The refined and sensitive face of the clergy-man offered no indication of the truculent character of the man. His scanty fair hair, already gray over the temples, was silken and soft-looking; in appearance he was indeed a typical English churchman; but in China he had been known as "the fighting missionary," and had fully deserved the title. In fact, this peaceful-looking gentleman had directly brought about the Boxer Risings!
Within 16 pages, I am running with Petrie and Commissioner Nayland Smith as they race to free the good Reverend from the clutches of kidnappers working for Dr. Fu-Manchu! Commandeering a car, they end up in a fog-enshrouded cul de sac along the Thames contemplating how they are going to free the clergyman before he is murdered.

For Rohmer to transport me to 1916 London with its sights and aromas is in itself a miracle. As a writer, dare I hope for less for my own readers?

You can read The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu for free here.

The Fu-Manchu series will never be great literature, but they make for incredible stories. Rohmer's work is neither safe nor sanitized so today's delicate little snowflakes will not be able to handle the politically incorrect worldview of a long-dead England, but for the mature who can overlook the errors of an archaic, unchangeable past, the Fu-Manchu series guarantees a fun ride.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I'm A Starbucks Rebel!

video

What happens when a member of the ordained clergy imbibes from one of Starbucks' so-called anti-Christmas cups?

Why, absolutely nothing.

Except a little silliness.

Note: You probably can't tell this, but it is increasingly difficult for me to take the Internet all that seriously anymore.

Sub Note: Made with iPad's Photo app and Windows Live Movie Maker. Total time? About 10 to 15 minutes.

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Favorite Literary Villain: Dr. Fu Manchu and Death by Political Correctness

From 1913 to 1959, Sax Rohmer graced us with a witches coven of pulp novels that introduced an eager public to one of the most fascinating and controversial villains of all time: Dr. Fu Manchu:
"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."-- Nayland Smith to Dr. Petrie, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu,
I am in the process of collecting the series which follows. The ones that are bold are ones that I have in my collection:
  • The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1913) (US Title: The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu).
  • The Return of Dr Fu-Manchu (1916) (UK Title: The Devil Doctor)
  • The Hand of Fu Manchu (1917) (UK Title: The Si-Fan Mysteries)
  • Daughter of Fu Manchu (1931)
  • The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
  • The Bride of Fu Manchu (1933) (original US Title: Fu Manchu's Bride)
  • The Trail of Fu Manchu (1934)
  • President Fu Manchu (1936)
  • The Drums of Fu Manchu (1939)
  • The Island of Fu Manchu (1941)
  • The Shadow of Fu Manchu (1948)
  • Re-Enter: Fu Manchu (1957) (UK Title: Re-Enter: Dr. Fu Manchu)
  • Emperor Fu Manchu (1959) was Rohmer's last novel.
Today I was fortunate enough to find in a local used bookstore a passable copy of the second book in the series (pictured at left) and I confess I am weak-willed enough that I will drop everything on my reading list to once again run with Inspector Nayland Smith as he effectively puts an end to the Doctor's plans, but completely fails to put an end to Fu Manchu once and for all.

Alas, the series is an acquired taste. Sax Rohmer (real name Arthur Henry Ward) was born in 1883 and died in 1959. A product of his time, he held politically incorrect beliefs that today require even that dead authors be castigated and purged from memory and sight.

Case in point, last weekend's World Fantasy Convention buckled under the pressure of social justice warriors and rid themselves of the World Fantasy Award that was modeled after author H. P. Lovecraft. There is conjecture as to what the new award will look like, but I believe it should be a simple can of generic vanilla pudding.

So why did the WFC remove the "Howard" as it was called, disdaining an author that had been described as "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction" (Joyce Carol Oates), and "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale" (Stephen King)?

Like Rohmer, Robert W. Chambers, Robert Howard, and a host of other writers, Lovecraft was a product of his time and held racist beliefs that today people rightfully disagree with. Lovecraft and his peers were racist. I don't deny it. Lovecraft also hated Christians and was an avowed materialist, but why is it that I, a Christian pastor, can still enjoy the man's work and not feel threatened by his beliefs?

I shall withhold comments about my emotional maturity, a belief that pulp fiction does little to impact the worldviews of others, that I recognize racism as an outdated belief whose time has come, and that a man's body of literary work can often transcend the man himself.

So, in protest of the safe and sanitized prose that passes for genre fiction today and stories that must be approved by the thought police before they can see the light of day, I shall spend my nights with Dr. Fu Manchu and ponder the mysteries of the Cthulu Mythos and let my imagination wander the Dreamlands.

Someday, when the stars are right, people can return to the old tales and though the authors were very human with very human failings, the stories of old can still be enjoyed and still inspire another entire generation of readers and writers.

I close with this quote from author Vox Day:
"None of the (Social Justice Warriors) writing today, no matter how many awards they give each other, will have one-tenth the lasting literary impact that Lovecraft did. None of them has his imagination; the very best they have to offer can only offer pallid, perverted imitations of him."
My chair and reading lamp call me. I have a date with the good Doctor.