Monday, December 28, 2009

Off-Topic: It's Not Hobbit Porn - It's Ballantine Adult Fantasy!

[Apologies to Steve K. Baum for stealing his joke for my title]

One of my big projects of the last couple of years (ever since picking Big Al's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series back up in 2008) has been exploring the roots of modern speculative fiction, and one of the best resources for this has been looking at the list of books in Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.

The short version of the BAF story (as short a version as I know how to tell, anyway): in the 1960s, Ballantine Books founders Ian and Betty Ballantine noted the rise in popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth series of books (it would be hard not to, with every third baby boomer picking up a complete set) and, deciding that classic fantasy was the current "thing", hired the aforementioned Mr. Carter to edit a new imprint for them featuring the genre.

Now, Carter may not have been much of a fictionist (that's a little unfair of me, as the only fiction of his that I've read have been his Conan pastiches - perhaps there are some Carter fans out there that can inform me of some masterpiece of his I've missed out on), but the guy sure knew his fantasy. Given pretty much carte blanche to publish whatever he saw fit, Carter brought out classic after classic by Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell, the amazing Clark Ashton Smith, and many other forgotten fantasy masters, presumably blowing many a hippie's and/or erstwhile Shire-dweller's mind.

The concluding irony? A series that was probably at least in part created to "cash in" on the then-current craze for fantasy fiction ended up barely in the black. No matter. A number of great authors' works were rescued from oblivion; all parties involved came as close as any published series ever has to establishing a fantasy canon (although the later Fantasy Masterworks series also does a fine job), and the Ballantines and Carter now, no doubt, have the great Dharmacakra tilting in their favor.

The original BAF logo (courtesy SF Bookworm)

BAF On The Web

There are several good sources for info on the BAF series on the web. The best by far that I've found is this gorgeous gallery of scans at The Wikipedia article on the series is quite informative (you knew I'd get that one in there, didn't you?), and you can preview the likes of the Carter-edited anthology Discoveries In Fantasy at that other amazing Internet time-devourer, Google Books.

Page 42, Paragraph 8; Page 43, Paragraphs 1 - 3; Notes

I'm back. Hope everyone had a merry Christmas/happy Hanukkah/joyous Meán Geimhridh/whatever you chose to celebrate (or avoid celebrating).


Page 42, Paragraph 8:

This is better than I thought possible. She says we can leave in the early morning hours before dawn. She says, "If we're going to be walking far, it's probably a good idea to fill up our bellies before we do. I'll come back before dawn with more and better things to eat. We'll make our bellies full, after which we'll journey a long way off, just you and me."

Page 43, Paragraph 1 (first full paragraph):

She says, "I'm going to go now, because Hob will be back soon. One more night of lying in the pigpen, and then you'll sleep with me." She bends over and licks my cheek and my mouth. I lick her face back, where the taste of semen is strong, dried on her cheek. She stands and smiles. "Before dawn," she says, "we go out the gate, shut it, and go."

Paragraph 2:

The sun becomes low in the sky, and I eat the poultry* down to the bone. Hob's come back here, and I hear him and the girl whispering in the hut. Hob says something, and the girl laughs. That's good, because I think the girl wants Hob to [still] like her, so he doesn't think she's planning on going away and not coming to see him anymore.

Paragraph 3:

I smile at this. It's great that the girl can lie to Hob. If she's smart enough to do this, she'll be smart when it comes to foraging food and finding it for me. Through the reeds, across the river, the sun's become so big and low that its heat makes the world's edge smoke. The river's so still that I can look on the darkening of the other world there beneath the world there beneath the water, where another bird flies silently.**

*Probably chicken, but who knows? Maybe the girl went duck hunting or something.

**That's a beautiful little image, isn't it? I keep thinking about how much I'd like to teach this book - it's exemplary in so many ways.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Web Resources for VOICE OF THE FIRE

I thought I would post links to some of the web pages I found helpful while reading Voice of the Fire, so they're up for others to use.

Wikipedia article on Prehistoric Britain (for "Hob's Hob", "The Cremation Fields", and "In The Drownings")

Wikipedia article on fairies (for "Hob's Hog")

Wikipedia article on Bronze Age Britain (for "The Cremation Fields")

Wikipedia article on Iron Age Britain (for "In The Drownings")

Wikipedia article on Britannia/Roman Britain (for "The Head Of Diocletian") page on St. Ragener (for "November Saints")

Wikipedia article on the Crusades (for "Limping To Jerusalem")

Wikipedia article on Francis Tresham (for "Confessions Of A Mask")

(featured) Wikipedia article on John Dee (for "Angel Language")

Wikipedia articles on witchcraft, the "witch-cult hypothesis", and witch hunts (for "Partners In Knitting")

Wikipedia article on John Clare (for "The Sun Looks Pale Upon The Wall")

Wikipedia article on the writer Jim Thompson (Moore's most probable influence on "I Travel In Suspenders")


Speaking of Wikipedia, help 'em out if you can, will ya? Thanks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Page 42, Paragraphs 3 - 7

Page 42, Paragraph 3:

Now I smell flowers; the girl has come from the hut by the wall around the pigpen and through the gate. She has poultry and bread. She kneels and puts the food down on the hay so I can see it.

Paragraph 4:

I don't look at the food, but quickly say everything I'm thinking about. I say, "It's no good for you to stay with Hob. You and I can go far away, just the two of us, and forage so well that we'll want for nothing." I take her hand and hold it tight, and say, "I think you don't like finding wood for Hob all the time, or cooking his meat. You're not having good times with Hob, that's why you want me to stay and make things better, like you said." She's quiet now, but nods her head "yes".

Paragraph 5:

I say, "If you come with me and travel around the world, you'll have nothing but good times." I keep talking like this until I can't think of anything else to say, and now it gets quiet as time goes by; she doesn't say anything. Oh no. I think I said something bad. She's not going to come with me. She's going to make me go off all alone and not see her anymore. I'm full of fright; it's so quiet in the pigpen now.

Paragraph 6:

She looks at me. She smiles.

Paragraph 7:

"Yes," she says. "Yes."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Amazon Review Of Voice Of The Fire

I finished Voice of the Fire - you can read my review of it here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Page 41, Paragraphs 5 and 6; Page 42, Paragraphs 1 and 2; Progress Note

This is my 100th post. :)


Page 41, Paragraph 5:

At night, she's in the hut all alone with Hob. He's bigger than her, and he makes her do things. He puts his penis in her and has sex with her. No. No, it's worse than anything I want to think about. Maybe he makes her rub his erection with her hair, like she did with me - the thought of this is even worse still. Hob doesn't want her to have sex with any man except him - he's scared her, which is why she wouldn't let me put a hand on her. Now I'm upset. Why, it's like she's not hers - she's Hob's!

Paragraph 6:

I think about how it isn't good for her that she's kept all the time by a man that's as evil and crazy as Hob. He's older than the trees; he killed his son in this world, so that he can only see him in the other world. In the other world, where the Urk-kine sit on the shagfoal, beneath the cave-ceiling made of little boys' bones, where Hob makes his son go, as the spirits have indebted Hob to them with the thoughts that he can make his strange path-song [path-spell]. It's so bad that it can't be put into words. I can't let the girl stay here anymore. I'll make her go with me far away, and walk, and journey onwards, and not settle. It's not right for people to settle. There's no good in it.

Page 42, Paragraph 1:

By the white-skinned hut across from the pigpen I hear the girl - she's still looking for food. I think about how it would be if we ran off together. I don't think I'd be good at foraging on my own, but the girl's smarter than me and she can forage many things for us like my mother did. We can walk across the skeleton-woman bridge, and then across the world, the flower-scented girl and I. When she's away from Hob and isn't scared of him anymore, I can make her take off her clothes and open up her legs as far as they'll go.

Paragraph 2:

Inside my clothes, Old Will only tingles a bit, as he's still too weak to stand.


Progress note: Finished "Partners In Knitting" (probably the most darkly beautiful chapter that I've read so far) and "The Sun Looks Pale Upon The Wall" (it helped to read this first). Holy crap! I've only got about 50 pages left. What am I gonna do when I'm finished?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Page 41, Paragraphs 1 - 4

Back at it.


Page 41, Paragraph 1:

She and I stand up, but my legs are shaky and weak. "Come on," she says, and takes my hand in hers, and hand in hand we walk through the flowers and through trees and down the bare hill of stumps. All this time I think of nothing but her hand, our fingers intertwined. I feel better than I ever have in my life. We go down the hill, through the mud and bees, with rot in the stumps and in the air. The flower perfume on the girl draws the bees to us, so I'm constantly swatting them away.

Paragraph 2:

We go up the rise with the little thicket of trees and we're down in the reeds; this is the route we take to the hut and the pigpen. We were up on the hill for a long time - I can tell it's afternoon by where the sun's at in the sky. It's gotten cold, so that I pull tighter on Hob's son's clothes, since he's neither alive nor does he need them. The girl opens the gate and tells me to go back in the pen, so that she can find more food before Hob comes back.

Paragraph 3:

I do this, and then sit on the hay and think about a lot of things. The girl goes away to look in the white-skin hut to find something to eat. I think of how she shut her legs so I couldn't rub her vagina, and of how she wouldn't let me touch her breasts, and how she said no man can touch her.

Paragraph 4:

Now I understand everything.


Progress note: I finished "Limping to Jerusalem" (take that, Dan Brown!), "Confessions Of A Mask" (is it just Moore that's obsessed with Guy Fawkes, or are English folks in general?), and "Angel Language" (just when we thought things couldn't get any more disturbing...), and am about halfway through "Partners in Knitting".

Friday, December 4, 2009

Off-Topic: Thoughts On Arthur Machen's "The White People"

The following is just a touch-up of some brief notes I made a couple of weeks ago after reading the Arthur Machen short story "The White People" (in case you don't pick up on it from what I wrote - I really, really liked it) (and yes, I'll stop going on about Ulysses (for a while) after this).


Alice's Adventures In Wonderland meets Ulysses in Hell. Probably the most brilliant piece of horror fiction I've ever read - the only thing I can think of that comes close in Poe's "Cask of Amontillado", and this might be even more ingenious than that. I mean, come on - this anticipates the writing style of James Joyce by 15 years (it was written in 1899) and Lovecraft's by nearly a quarter-century. Why isn't this guy better known today? To be placed in the sui generis file alongside Clark Ashton Smith, I guess (i.e., too fuckin' weird for almost anyone to understand, not to mention appreciate).


PS It appears that Alan Moore is a Machen fan, too - check out this and this.

Addendum: I did a little editing of (and added some hyperlinks to) the second paragraph, just for fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Page 40, Paragraphs 3 and 4

Page 40, Paragraph 3 (first paragraph after the break):

Quiet. Above the clearing in the trees a flock of black birds flies as one, this way and that with the wind, so high that they become as small as bugs. The girl rubs her hand on the grass to rub off the semen. Now she points with one finger for me to look, and I see where my semen hangs like a little string bridge between the roses aways off. It went farther than I thought; she and I laugh at this.

Paragraph 4:

It gets even quieter now. Far away, on the wind, comes the noise of the settlers, having a good time around their fires. It's the noise of many voices, and the loud noise of a wooden drum beating, and the noise of a bone flute. It's the noise of children and dogs. Now the wind changes direction, and the noise goes away. The girl says, "We need to go back down by Hob's hut now, so that he doesn't get back and find me gone." She says, "You can put your penis back in your clothes," and smiles.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Page 40, Paragraph 2; Notes

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile - I've been busy reading (among other things). I finished "The Cremation Fields" this morning and started on "In The Drownings". Really enjoyed "TCF" - not quite the virtuoso display that "Hob's Hob" was, but still pretty great. My favorite quote from it: "Here is clever deep enough to drown in." Indeed.


Page 40, Paragraph 2:

She bends over, and holds her head down so that her long bright hair hangs down like vines there all around my penis. Now she takes a long, thick strand of hair in her hand to wrap in her fingers around my hot erection. Oh, she rubs me with her hair, all up and down, all quick and hard so that it pulls and is likely to hurt her head, but she makes not a sound, only rub and rub, and the rubbing's good, and the thought of it is better yet, her hair is so soft and bright in the sun, and a strong sensation moves up my erection, slow like a snail, from my ass, through the width of my penis to the tip where it prickles good, and now a little circle of semen comes out of it, like the dew that comes on the grass at dawn, and she's rubbing harder, faster, and I'm imagining that this isn't the rubbing of hair in her hand, but the rubbing of hair around her vagina, and oh, and the thought of this goes quickly down my belly, up my penis and oh, and the girl is holding harder so that it hurts but the hurt is good, and harder yet to stop my semen, but it is now, and now, and now, a stream of semen falls on her cheek, in her hair, and wets the aurochs skin around her head, and more, and more, on my legs and down her fingers, wetting the grass and white on the bloody eyes of the flowers and oh, and Mother. Mother.


Did this remind anyone else of the last chapter of Ulysses?