Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Genre Romance is a Quest for Knowledge

That's my literary insight for the day. Love plots written for
guys tend to portray the whole thing as a quest to prove oneself, do
great deeds, and thus win the love of the lady. Love plots written for
women tend to turn the whole thing into a quest for understanding of
the true feelings, thoughts, and situations of those involved. Perfect
love requires perfect understanding. Imperfect understanding leads to
quarrels, or even to being interested in the wrong person. "Had I but

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a perfect
example of this; and one wonders whether she got it from the old Gothic
novels she liked to read. But Romeo and Juliet is an
equally good example in its way; misunderstanding leads to disaster.

So what do the rest of you think of my theory?

A Dream

This is one of the few occasions when I've been able to remember a dream, so I think I ought to write it down.

First, I was at a convention of some kind. There was a problem, though.
There had been some kind of offsite meeting from my business there just
beforehand, and people had left cardboarded piles of billing in stacks
on tables out in the hall. I disapproved of this as a security problem
and general sloppiness.

Then for some reason I was walking out in the surrounding area, which
turned out to be Greenville. I went to the library and borrowed some
neat books. Then I stumbled, saved myself, but dropped one of the books
right in front of a storm sewer opening. I was trying to hand my stuff
to another passersby so I could safely kneel down and pick up the book,
but he accidentally kicked the book down into the storm sewer. I laid
down to try and feel around in there for the book, and saw that there
was a large space behind the storm sewer opening where someone had made
a kind of shelf above the usual water level. After I recovered the book
from the level below these shelves (fortunately perfectly dry), I took
a better look at the hidden shelf. It held paperbacks, videotapes, and
even a poster -- probably some kid's secret cache. I wasn't too happy
about someone putting all this where it could get wet; but I figured it
wasn't my stuff, it apparently hadn't gotten wet so far, and I should
leave it alone.

I went back to the hotel and met up with my parents, who took me out to
eat. It was a very nice restaurant, and turned out to be presenting an
Italian opera as dinner theater. (Modern dress, actors seated among the
patrons. It worked brilliantly, I thought.) I knew
perfectly well which opera it was, but I couldn't think of the name or
the composer though I was sure I'd seen it before. Somebody told
me it's English name was The Magic Fox, but I knew
that was wrong. (Not that a kitsune opera is a bad idea, but it wasn't
at all about magic foxes. More a
love/deception/betrayal/misunderstanding sort of thing.) I tried to
think of the heroine's name and said it was "Farfalla", but I knew that
was wrong, too. (And before you ask, no, the opera was not
Madame Butterfly.) I was pretty sure I'd think of
it, but after only a short while, my parents decided to leave. I stayed
on, but then I had to leave for some reason.

More stuff happened after that, but I don't remember much about it. For
some reason, right before I woke up I decided that "Execution counts"
would be a good Mad Emperor Yuri Vorbarra button/.sig, and that the
alternate slogan could be "After the defenestration, it's the death
squads that count". But that was my dream.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Gospel According to...Judas?


Yup. Via, is reporting the upcoming publication of a Coptic version of the long-lost Gospel of Judas. We knew about this little Gnostic fanfic from St. Irenaeus of Lyons in his Adversus Haereses, in the chapter on Doctrines of the Cainites:

Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.


This may at least spare us from the scenario in George R.R. Martin's
"The Way of Cross and Dragon", as it means folks won't have to come up with Judas fanfic about flying dragons and Iscariot sitting on Jesus' right hand. OTOH, there were probably a blue dozen independently written versions of every dorky Gnostic gospel, so this might not actually be the one Irenaeus was talking about. But do I really care?
Not really. Though I'd like dragons a lot better than boring ol' Aeons. Heck, if I'd been writing a Gnostic gospel, I would've written something more exciting than anything Pagels keeps salivating over. None of this "women can only get into heaven by reincarnating as men" crud, either.

Still, you'll notice in the above story that we get an Eeeeevil Catholic Church with an Eeeeeeevil Torturing Inquisition, and it's all opposed only by the benevolent power of Lies. Um. Whatever, dude. Martin's a good writer, but I do tend to lose patience with this sort of thing. Even with dragons.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Bad Marketing of the Classics, Example #3456

If you pick up a Henry James novel, there's always a glassy-eyed frozen-looking Sargent chick on the cover. Yes, I know Sargent women don't really look like that; but they do on Penguin covers, for some reason. Your basic impression, after reading the blurb, is that a)Americans (much richer and idler than you'll ever be) will suffer and b)This is probably going to be about as painful as a month in Death Valley with nothing to read but Silas Marner.

But heck, I couldn't evade Henry-bloody-James forever. (Terry Teachout's been making me feel guilty about it.) So I picked up The Wings of the Dove on CD down at the library. The prose is not quite as bad as I expected (readers are a great aid in this respect). But the plot! The plot is positively operatic!

So here's the lowdown. No frozen-faced chick. You've got one penniless but smart English woman, her true love the reporter, and her scheming rich aunt who doesn't want her to marry the guy. You've got one rich but sick American woman, who's best friends with the English chick, and rather likes the same guy; and the lady looking after her, whose old best friend was the scheming aunt.

I'm telling you, this is good stuff. Professor Moriarty has met his match. AND THEY'VE BEEN HIDING THIS FROM ME!

(Oh, but you must read James for his...understanding of the rich expatriate's sad lot in life. And his 'psychological skill'. Oh, yes, and his proooooose. Not to mention that frozen Sargent chick on the cover.)

Pah! At least so far, you should read James because he's fun!

Senses and Seasons

I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this seasonal analogy for biblical interpretation techniques ("senses"), but it came to mind when Saward (The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty) mentioned that the Bible is said to be a "forest of senses". Maybe this analogy will help me remember the dang senses. (Probably not the names, though.)

Winter: the literal sense (incorporating historical, etiological and analogical senses). Just what the words on the page say, just bare branches on the trees. Everything else lies hidden and dormant. This is especially true of the Old Testament. And of course in winter comes Christmas, the celebration of the Word coming into the world as one of us.

Spring: the allegorical sense. Just as the wood springs to new life, so the OT reveals new applications to the NT (and so forth).

Summer: the tropological sense. The season of maturity makes us apply the Bible's words to what we readers ought to be doing. Time to produce some fruit!

Fall: the anagogical sense. It speaks of Christ's harvest and eternal things.

Which leads us back to winter and the literal sense again! Cool, no?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Pulp Links

Pulp Rack: lots of articles and links to all things pulpy.

ThePulp.Net: a pulp heroes site.

PulpGen. Check out the pulp e-texts. There are even a few stories from Western love pulps. "Team Work" from Golden West Romances is a pretty fair example of this genre.

Adventure House features tons of pulp books and resources. Lots to buy, and free e-texts as well. Check it out!

Back Numbers Can Be Easily Procured, a PEAPS pulp fanzine hosted at -- science fiction fanzines online. (Wow, what a neat site, eh? You might also want to check out for fannish discussion.

Harold Lamb I knew through some old paperback bios my dad had of Babur the Tiger, Omar Khayyam, Tamerlane and so forth. Didn't know he wrote fiction. Didn't know he wrote history. But now I own The March of the Barbarians. Mwahaha! You can also read "Rose Face" over at PulpGen.

Max Brand is probably best known today as the author of the novel-turned-film Destry Rides Again. But back in the day, this prolific and powerful writer had stories in nearly every issue of Argosy for years at a time, as well as writing more prestigious novels. Now that I've read a story by him, I have to say his sales were earned. Good stuff, including wonderful description and strong female characters.

G-8 and His Battle Aces site, including a game! (You can get reprints of the series from Adventure House.)

Howard Hopkins has a site featuring his Westerns, his pulp fanzine, and his Doc Savage fanfic novel. Fun stuff!


Pulpcon 33 was last week and weekend. It's a very interesting and fun convention, on the whole. If you love pulp heroes, noir art, mysteries, adventure, old fiction, and the smell of acidic paper committing suicide, you definitely ought to come. But it is not like most other cons.

First off, it's not held in a hotel but the Convention Center. Indeed, it centers on the dealer room, with secondary expeditions to the annual sales at Bonnett's (in the Oregon District), the Dragon's Lair (comic/bookshop two blocks in the other direction), and Bookery Fantasy (in Fairborn -- and check out this review). The problem is that, for me, this is rather like being a drug addict at a pharmaceutical convention. The only consolation is that the rest of the people are as bad as I am -- no, worse!

Second, there isn't much in the way of programming. There are guests, who had something to do with the pulp industry, and they make presentations. There is also a reader's theater radio play, various other presentations, and auctions. Lots of auctions. Auctions every night. Full of stuff that will caaaaaaaalllll to you. Honestly, it's a menace. OTOH, I never thought I'd own one Hannes Bok sketch, much less two. (I managed not to bid on any Bok this time, thank God...he was starting to invade my brain.) The bargains are hard to pass up, though. I wound up with a beautiful art book of b&w illustrations by Virgil Finlay called Phantasms which went for five bucks.

Third, the hospitality suite is only open when the con staff remember to open it up, which seems to be at some rather odd hours. Also, if you want drinks and munchies, you'd be well advised to bring some for everybody, as resupply can be haphazard. But hey, the conversations are definitely worth it!

No previous knowledge of pulps is required. Whatever you know, the other people here will know more -- but they will be more than willing to share information with you. It's a small, friendly fandom that is very welcoming.

The fandom is overwhelmingly male, btw -- even more so than Sherlockian fandom. Sherlockians are perhaps 3/5 to 3/4 male. Pulpcon had about ten women among about two hundred in attendance, but they weren't marginized in any way. I suppose most girls nowadays just don't run across much pulp stuff; and pulps historically had a lot of pictures on their covers of beautiful, scantily clad women being menaced by criminals, robots, aliens, and so forth. It's not surprising, then, that there's plenty of merchandise available which deals with this aspect. (Jokily, mostly.) There are also quite a few 'spicy' pulps. Don't be fooled by this; they're all pretty tame by today's standards. (One of the old pulp writers defined 'spicy' as stories in which the heroine loses her clothes, but nothing happens.)

Women had 'love pulps' instead -- with no clothes lost -- but guys used to read and write them, too, just as women read and wrote stories for the male-marketed adventure and mystery pulps. There were also Western love pulps like Ranch Romance, which tended to feature plucky girls who knew how to ride and shoot straight. (Well, at least until they hit the late sixties and turned into Gothic Western bimbo tales -- judging from the covers, anyway.) It's a really intriguing chapter of literary history that is almost unknown to today's romance fans and women's historians, and it shouldn't be. I long to write about it. The only problem is that...geez, it's so girly! But seriously, the stories aren't too bad. Maybe I can enlist Joy for further explication of the relevant tropes.

However, as a pulp novice, I admit that I tend to go shopping for what I can understand. SF I know (though I can't afford good copies of most sf pulps, alas). Books I know, too, and they're in ample supply at Pulpcon. So guess what I bought! A James Branch Cabell hardcover, mwhahaha! It's from some late non-fantasy trilogy about people living in St. Augustine, but hey, it's Cabell! Also, three hardcover kids' books by Manly Wade Wellman, an old DeCamp book about magic featuring the world's goofiest photo of Aleister Crowley, a compendium of H.P. Lovecraft non-fiction called To Quebec and the Stars, a collection of M.R. James' ghost stories, a couple of John Creasey paperbacks in The Toff series (and I know where to get more!), and some very cool John Dickson Carr paperbacks I've never run across before. The Bride of Newgate is a particularly good Regency mystery which reminds me of Heyer in more tortuous mood.

Black Plumes by Margery Allingham is a 1940 non-Campion mystery which is just as satisfying or more than her series mysteries. The advantage of non-series mysteries is that you get a wider field of potential detectives, victims, and suspects; and Allingham takes full advantage of this with her household visited by love, murder, guilt, and fear. Also, The Allingham Minibus is a really satisfying collection of short stories by Margery Allingham, including a few Campion stories I've never come across. But the rest of the book is the showpiece, frankly. Her ghost stories are genuinely spooky stuff, and her generic fiction is good, too. I was particularly struck by "The Pioneers", a story in which two people whose marriage is breaking up are visited by two newlyweds inspired to marriage by them. (Nothing topical there.)

Anyway, I had a really great time. I'd like to thank Ray Skirsky and John DeWalt, who once again let me hang out with them. Also, it was very cool to get time to talk with John Pelan of Darkside Press. He really does want to hear what you think about his books!

The personable and knowledgeable Howard DeVore wasn't there this year for health reasons (sigh), but you can read his 2003 report.