Favorite fantasy/sci-fi literature other than Tolkien
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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:06 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:
Misericorde is not a good story.  It features Kane exhibiting a sort of multi-dimensional jumping talent that also appears in the modern Kane stories.  Nobody has a chance against Kane because he jumps in and out of shadows and generally lords his complete superiority over everyone.  It might have gotten good.  I stopped reading.


I missed your mini-review earlier, Mark.

I disagree with your assessment though. I think Misiericorde is Wagner's finest Kane story, bar none.  It may be one of the only PERFECT short stories he ever wrote.  Everything works in this story....the conniving rich royal lady, Tamaslei; the sinister Vareishei clan and the gloomy, forbodding, unassailable Altharn Keep (An aside:  If a set of baddies and a location have EVER cried out more for an adaption to a D&D campaign as this, I've never seen it, EXCEPT for Wagner's story Cold Light); the plotline, unique for a Kane story (Kane is hired to avenge a friend and find a stolen/lost crown by killing all four Vareishei siblings); the ironic statements Kane makes as he takes down the siblings one by one ("Your have committed only a few mistakes, but regrettably this is not an art in which one learns though experience"), the weird way Kane somehow steals the souls of the Vareishei and places them into jewels (glossed over in a few paragraphs, but deserves to also be used in a D&D campaign), and the ironic/twist ending I didn't see coming the first time I read the tale. Honestly, I can find hardly a word out of place...I actually love Kane's dialogue thoughout the story, especially when he is first taking the job and outlining his "moral code"....great stuff.

Seriously Mark I trust your judgement on most things...but on this you are waaaaay  off.  I just read it for about the 100th time again last night to see if maybe I was missing something....
About the ONLY complaint I have with the story is that basically Kane is invincible in this story, a talent not evidenced in earlier Kane tales.  But I think that's partly the point of the tale....Kane is stronger than Wenvor, sneakier than Ostervor, more cunning than Sitilvon, and older than even Puriali suspects....they are a horrific clan of murderers, rapists, poisoners and torturers, but in the end, Kane is eternal, and Kane is simply better than them.  

I have never seen the multi dimensional jumping ability you state in this story...I think Kane is just damn sneaky, and as evidenced by the scene with Ostervor, he knows the secret passages of Altern Keep even better than they do (he's older than the Keep after all...maybe he's the one who built it?) and is able to take out all the siblings one by one because of it.  Remember the story is one of the few NOT told from Kane's point of view....his unerring ability to appear at the right place at the right time shouldn't be mistaken for teleportation. He reminds me of Batman in the comics...Commissioner Gordon turns his back, he is talking to Batman, he turns around, Batman is gone.  Batman didn't teleport away, he's just quick and sneaky, like Kane. Kane is a figure that lives in the shadows and edges of the world, and I think this story shows it better than most(he surprises Tamaslei at least twice but suddenly appearing in her room while she is elseways occupied).  

If nothing else the description of the Vareishei clan and their mountan fortress is one of the best setups Wagner ever used for a story....

At First Just Ghostly starts out with an interesting 80's protagonist named Cody Lennox...right off the set of Miami Vice.  (He even has a linen jacket and a five o'clock shadow beard.)  Lennox is a bit too autobiographical, since he is a drunken horror novelist who is on his way to a convention in London.  Then the protagonist meets Kane, who is a smug, know-it-all prat who pops in an out of space and time to mystify Lennox and bore the reader to death.  Kane is opposed by Satan/Sathonys and there is no God...because Kane killed him.  The fragment is aptly titled.  Maybe Wagner could have fixed it had he lived.


I don't know what happened to Wagner, as it's been said maybe it was the alcohol. But his ability surely degraded with stuff like this and the really crappy erotic horror.  

Writers like to use writers (or their lesser cousins, journalists) as protagonists because a writer is the coolest, smartest, most observant and sensitive character a writer can think of.  For example, easily half of Stephen King's protagonists are writers and most of the other half are equally autobiographical to some extent.


Yep, agree entirely. I never saw Lady in the Water by M Shamalamarama but doesn't he play a writer that is told by a superntural being he's destined to be the greatest writer in the world someday?  MARY SUE....... :D


What is almost worth the price of the book is Wagner's closing essay about why and how he created Kane....and the literary decisions he made in presenting the stories.  Foremost is the explanation of why Kane characters talk like 20th century people.  (Because that is how they sound to themselves...which makes excellent sense.)


Wagner's essays in Twilight Zone magazine need to be collected....he was just plain incredible when it came to knowing the history of horror literature, backwards and forwards.  EVerything I've read by him non-fiction wise is fascinating. He's one of the very few writers I've read that I would have loved to have just hung around all day to hear talk....

All of this ignores that fact that the rest of Midnight Sun is just plain awesome reading.  Kane is an original take on fantasy literature in which the villain is the hero.  As Wagner points out in his essay, villains are more interesting than heroes.  Kane cannot be thought of as an anti-hero because anti-heroes are usually dolts or too flawed to live.  Kane is an evil dude who is usually just a bit less evil than whoever or whatever he is trying to rob/con/bring down/take over/curse.  


Kane is the ultimate amoral product of a man cursed to live forever...cmon, does any of us think after walking the earth a few thousand years we wouldn't be uncaring, soulless and jaded ourselves?  I mean, Kane is older than freaking Dracula...and we know how that dude turned out.....

Along the way, Kane fights enough lurid, bloody battles  to sate the gore lust of any Conan reader.  (Darkness Weaves was the next novel I read after finishing Tolkien at age 14.  Parts of the story literally made me gag with delight.)  Wagner has the distinction of all the Robert E. Howard fans of creating a character that exceeds his idol's work.  Anyone who has ever suffered through a Brak the Barbarian story knows this is true...now there's a trivia question for fantasy readers!


Darkness Weaves is just a great story, can't add to this....

Reflections for the Winter of My Soul is possibly the best fantasy story ever written.  (Your nominations are....?)  Raven's Eyrie and Lynortis Reprise might challenge for the second and third spots.  Cold Light is a nice tale of a D&D paladin gone wrong.


Reflections is one of the best fantasy werewolf stories every written...and the coolest way to kill a werewolf I've ever read.  Cold Light is another D&D scenario waiting to happen...both also show Kane in a different light than usual, more reflective and reactive, more pensive, less evil--- they both almost read like Conan tales if you ask me.

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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:22 am 
 

megnelwil wrote: with Manichean goodies and baddies littering the text,


I always promise myself...one day I'm going to remember what "Manichean" means.


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:39 am 
 

FormCritic wrote:I always promise myself...one day I'm going to remember what "Manichean" means.


Why, something that pertains to the teachings of Manes of course. :P


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:46 am 
 

As for the teleporting around in Misericorde....

I don't find Kane's ability to suddenly poop out of the shadows to be a very good addition to his evil repertoire.

(I typed "poop out of the shadows" by mistake...but I liked it so much I left it in there.  Makes me laugh every time I read it.)

It is an ability Kane suddenly developed late in Wagner's career and it is just a little out of character.  "Stupid" might be a better word.

It fits with his Kane The Porno Smartass character from the modern stories...not with the Kane of...say...Bloodstone.

In Raven's Eyrie, for instance, Kane seems to appear and disappear but these are explained by quite mundane twists of the plot.

He does not, for instance, stop time in Raven's Eyrie...he climbs down a secret passge.

(Raven's Eyrie, incidentally, has one of the wildest similes any writer every dared to print:  like a hot-clefted slut, cheated of her climax  When I first encountered the line I had to re-read it a couple of times to make sure that is what Wagner actually dared to write and a publisher actually agreed to print.)

One of the more charming elements of fantasy Kane is his affinity for sidekicks and respect for mortal humans of ability or character.  At times, he even acts against his own interests because of his feelings of love or friendship.  None of that is present in Wagner's later stories.  Kane is pretty much laughing at us...and it does not show a good side of Wagner himself.  

Another factor that I find charming about Kane is his ability to brood mightily and break endless wine bottles...and then emerge to continue the plot.  He is mad at God, and and drinks away his frustration.  None of that is present in Kane The Mocker, who has actually killed God and is now after Satan's ass.

(There is a similar brooding and bottle smashing scene involving Corwin of Amber in Zelazny's novel, Sign of the Unicorn.  Every time I read it I wonder if Zelazny had read Wagner, or vice versa.  The two writers were pretty much contemporaries.  I also wonder if Elric's brooding was a part of the formation of Kane...except that The Gothic Touch is pretty much contemptuous of poor dumb Elric.)

Maybe I should finish reading Misericorde.  (Which...you know...seems only fair before I say it sucks.)  One problem with the story is that there is nothing interesting about the Vareishei clan.  They are all four pretty much cardboard characters.  It seems pretty ironic that Kane traps their souls...since they don't seem to have any soul at all.  If you read the other Kane fantasy stories you will find that almost all the villains and major characters are themselves heroes of a sort.  No one in Misericorde even seems worth the killing.

Probably ought to re-read....


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:53 am 
 

killjoy32 wrote:sorry but i am still a fan of the old perry rhodan novels. i think they are fab fun to read - i never tire of them.

have also just finished reading glory road yet again.

Al


Talk about a name from the past--I haven't seen a Perry Rhodan book/novel in a long time; the only book I've ever seen (German or English translation) was The Fortress of the Six Moons, and that I bought in a bookstore in New Mexico in the mid-1970's.  (I do still have it, read it about once or twice a year, and still enjoy it.)

Apparently, the original format is slightly different than a novel; this is listed as #13 in the series (the novel version is book #7 on the novel I have).

Have you or anyone else run into the Rhodan series in any of the brick-and-mortar bookstores, or is it more available in the (shrinking number of) local booksellers?  

Melvin H.


Last edited by sleepyCO on Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
  

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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:55 am 
 

Badmike wrote:
Reflections is one of the best fantasy werewolf stories every written...and the coolest way to kill a werewolf I've ever read.  Cold Light is another D&D scenario waiting to happen...both also show Kane in a different light than usual, more reflective and reactive, more pensive, less evil--- they both almost read like Conan tales if you ask me.

Mike B.


This is another scene that makes me wonder about Wagner and Zelazny.

There is an almost identical wrestling/strangulation scene pitting superman versus beastman in Zelazny's Amber novel, The Guns of Avalon.

Who was cribbing from whom?


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:58 am 
 

If you like Perry Rhodan, you might find this site interesting.


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:02 am 
 

FormCritic wrote:
The Guns of Avalon.



Great film - Gregory Peck, David Niven et al. - didn't much like the sequel with Harrison Ford though.


(just kidding)


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:08 am 
 

serleran wrote:If you like Perry Rhodan, you might find this site interesting.


Thanks serelan--found it and intend to read more about the series...
curious if there has been any ideas about making a Rhodan movie for theatre or straight to DVD?

  

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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:16 am 
 

OK...looked up Manicheanism online.

Apparently, g026r wasn't joking.  It is, literally, the teachings of Manes.

For everyone else here equally mystified..."Manichean characters" means that there is a strong division between "light" and "darkness" and characters are either alighned with one or the other.

F. Paul Wilson's characters, Glaeken and Rasalom, from The Keep, would be excellent examples of Manichean characters.  They might even have been drawn by Wilson from Manichean ideas, except that the book is not that deep and the movie is...um...less deeperer.


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:38 am 
 

gyg wrote:
Great film - Gregory Peck, David Niven et al. - didn't much like the sequel with Harrison Ford though.


(just kidding)


Excellent picture. Little furry guys with M16s fighting the germans and all.

  

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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:51 am 
 

sleepyCO wrote:
Talk about a name from the past--I haven't seen a Perry Rhodan book/novel in a long time; the only book I've ever seen (German or English translation) was The Fortress of the Six Moons, and that I bought in a bookstore in New Mexico in the mid-1970's.  (I do still have it, read it about once or twice a year, and still enjoy it.)

Apparently, the original format is slightly different than a novel; this is listed as #13 in the series (the novel version is book #7 on the novel I have).

Have you or anyone else run into the Rhodan series in any of the brick-and-mortar bookstores, or is it more available in the (shrinking number of) local booksellers?  

Melvin H.


Half Price Books carries them occassionally.  They are well worth reading in order, because they form a very well put together series despite being written by different authors.

I'm going by memory here....

In 1971, the american astronaut Perry Rhodan, his friend Reginald Bell (Reginald Bull in the original German), and some others are going to land on the moon.  (seeing as how this was written in the early 60s, it was remarkable prescient almost getting the year correct of man's eventual landing on the moon). When they arrive, they find a crashlanded spaceship of a race called the Arkonides.  They make friends with two of the aliens, Crest and Thora (Khrest in the American so as not to confuse him with the toothpaste!), and bring them to earth. In exchange for saving Crest's life, Rhodan is given the technology of the advanced civilization.  He has big plans, many to stop war on earth by declaring himself the "Third Power" between the US and Russia (remember, this was written during the cold war), and sets up in the Gobi Desert. Through the first few books he consolidates his power, and gathers up Earth's mutants to form a special "Mutant Corp", his special police force.  He uses his advanced science to set up a world government and benevolently rules, striving to advance civilization because he realizes at some point they are going to be discovered and destroyed by a superior, warlike alien society if they don't get up to speed quickly. Soon Rhodan and his friends are travelling the universe hunting for an immortal alien that has the secret of immortality.  

The series is divided up into stages, each taking place many years after the other. The first "stage" is 50 issues and ends when Earth fakes it's destruction to give it time to catch up militarily with hostile forces in the galaxy, particularly the Arkonides. The second stage starts many years after, and eventually through the series Rhodan (and Earth) rise in power and eventually begin conquering their enemies.  Along the way they battle anti-mutants, various aliens, sub dimensional baddies, and other obstacles.  Rhodan is eventually joined by two of the most popular members of the series, Atlan (a ancient Arkonide that lived in Atlantis many centuries ago) and Pucky (Gucky in the German, and intelligent "mouse beaver" from another planet that has the power of teleportation).  

The series is really great because it's very space opera like, with a larger theme than most SF series, a very large cast of characters (Rhodan doesn't even appear in many of the novels, the cast is so huge), the serial aspect (tune in next week!), and pretty exciting plots.   In the first 150 stories (all that were printed in English, unfortunately) there are very few bum or boring issues, most occuring near the beginning as the writers began to feel their way, and soon the writing and plotlines get very tight, cliffhanging and well written as the series continues. I believe over 2000 stories have now been written as it has continued over FORTY YEARS since the humble beginnings.  

For collectors, it's easier to try and buy a large lot on ebay than to piece meal it, and I've found the prices to be pretty affordable when I ocassionally check on sets.  The series is interesting because the editor, Forrest Ackerman, included lots of backup features to fill n space (the books were released a couple monthly, trying to duplicate the weekly releases of Germany, but each story wasn't enough to fill one paperback).  Stories, movie reviews, letter columns, etc lead to a really fun and homey reading experience....reading the stories then all the backup features, and Ackerman's comments, made me as a kid feel like I was sitting around with friends hanging out.  

The books start to get scarce about 109 or so, as Ace began lowering the printings, and the books became "double issues" to include more bang for the buck. Soon, the issues even became subscription only (very far ahead of it's time, unfortunately way too far ahead for 1979 or so), and these (#119 on) are much, much harder to find. Unfortunately the series was cancelled with #137, never finishing the last storyline, but years later unofficial translations of the last few books began popping up on the internet....however these are the only way to finish The Posbi saga (the numbering is off on the German and American versions, because the US left out a few of the non-essential early stories to get to the "good" stuff earlier, and condensed others).  BTW, the Posbi sage predated The Borg by 30 years, and are essentially The Borg with a few twists...IMO a Star Trek writer read these in the late 70s and was inspired by them!

Anyway, my advice is to find the first 118 issues or so and read them through, that should kill some time, and try to find the difficult to locate subscription issues (I got some at the time they were offered in the 70s, and some on Ebay years later).  If you enjoy space opera and serialized adventures this is really a good series.  I see a few lots up on Ebay now, but I'd wait until a large lot came up and buy a bunch at once, as the lots never seem to get about $1 a book (two lots of 100 or so Rhodans sold for $75 and $133, that sounds about right).

Highly recommended!!!

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:04 am 
 

sleepyCO wrote:
Thanks serelan--found it and intend to read more about the series...
curious if there has been any ideas about making a Rhodan movie for theatre or straight to DVD?


A really bad Rhodan movie was filmed ages ago....tapes of it sometimes pop up.  The Rhodan series is an industry in Germany....dozens of spinoffs (some of the spinoff characters like Atlan have series numbering in the 100s), cards, board games, comics, models, picture books of various ships, toys and dolls, etc....basically it's Germany's Star Trek.  

It's really sad it never became a hit in the US. I honestly think the German creators cost themselves millions, if not billions, of dollars through an ill advised decision to raise rights costs to their material in the late 70s....when Ackerman couldn't pay them, the rights lapses, and they were never picked up again. On top of that Germany did nothing to ever promote Rhodan in the US after Ackerman stopped publishing, and the SF reading public either forgot about Rhodan or never stumbled across the series.   Just think, if somehow the German publishers had been able to keep Rhodan going during the Star Wars-crazy early 80s, through the Star Trek revival, who knows.....we might have seen Perry Rhodan alongside Farscape, Babylon 5 and Stargate during the 90s and beyond.  The lack of the German's interest in the English speaking market to this day is incredibly mystifying.....

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:21 am 
 

FormCritic wrote:OK...looked up Manicheanism online.

Apparently, g026r wasn't joking.  It is, literally, the teachings of Manes.


Well, I'd personally say I was joking because my definition wasn't a very helpful one for you even if it was technically accurate. ;)


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Post Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 6:48 pm 
 

I was going through some boxes today and found my copy of Black Easter by James Blish. I was years ago that I read it, but parts of it are still quite vivid.

The "bad guy" named Theron Ware has a personality that I have used as a pattern for villains in many of my rpg sessions. He is educated, intelligent, suave and somewhat ruthless.

What everyday people consider to be monstrous acts he sees as an art form.

If you have not read it I would recommend it although I was not keen on the follow up novel titled The Day After Judgement.

I was also quite fond of Doctor Mirabilis by Blish. A novel about Roger Bacon exploring the possibility that he had experimented unknowingly with a crude form of gunpowder. Of course in that time period he was accused of being involved in alchemy and punished by the church.

Anybody else read these?


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 2:53 pm 
 

Has anybody read the Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake?
I stumbled across a reference to this series and must admit that I had never heard of it.

Amazon Review Quote
Mervyn Peake's gothic masterpiece, the Gormenghast trilogy, begins with the superlative Titus Groan, a darkly humorous, stunningly complex tale of the first two years in the life of the heir to an ancient, rambling castle. The trilogy continues with the novels Gormenghast and Titus Alone, and all three books are bound together in this single-volume edition.

The Gormenghast royal family, the castle's decidedly eccentric staff, and the peasant artisans living around the dreary, crumbling structure make up the cast of characters in these engrossing stories. Peake's command of language and unique style set the tone and shape of an intricate, slow-moving world of ritual and stasis:

   "The walls of the vast room which were streaming with calid moisture, were built with gray slabs of stone and were the personal concern of a company of eighteen men known as the 'Grey Scrubbers'.... On every day of the year from three hours before daybreak until about eleven o'clock, when the scaffolding and ladders became a hindrance to the cooks, the Grey Scrubbers fulfilled their hereditary calling."


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 4:01 pm 
 

Peake is one of the great unread authors.  

The first book is the most accessible, but the other two have their charms.  They're quite odd: filled with irony and wonderful imagry.  I love the books, though I know many people who absolutely hate the entire trilogy.  Titus Groan, at least, is a must read. I hope that helps.

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Post Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 4:15 pm 
 

Thanks! I'll watch for a used copy since the price at the local bookstore for the compilation paperback edition is approximately $28.00. 8O

I'll have to add it to my eBay searches.


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 6:05 pm 
 

I've only ever seen the Gormenghast miniseries that the SciFi channel ran a few years back.  It was horrible.


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Post Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 6:24 pm 
 

The mini-series was a horrorshow:  It's hard to capture the quirkiness  and depth (or the, "bloody hard slog" as one friend put it) of the books.

Jason, I found the trilogy at a used bookstore for next to nothing.  $28.00!  ouch.  If you were closer I'd lend you my set :)  

Good luck with the search, and don't hammer me if you hate them! ;)


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