Phantasmagoria; Collected Essays on the Nature of Fantasy and Horror Literature
Author Roger C. Schlobin
Dr. Roger C. Schlobin is a retired Professor Emeritus of Purdue Universty, among other credits. He has written six scholarly works and edited over fifty, including “The Literature of Fantasy: a Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Modern Fantasy Fiction” (1979). The essays in this self-published collection span over thirty years of his career. “The original purpose of this collection”, he says in the Preface, “was to publish it with a prestigious university press as a study of the invaluable place that secondary, archetypal characters hold in literature. However, teaching four classes of first-year writing a semester stalled my research in 2006. The working bibliography is published here in an appendix for someone, hopefully, to build upon. Then, retirement and back surgery made the tedious steps of publishing with a university press superfluous.”
These essays have been published previously in such scholarly reviews and books as “Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature”, “J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth”, and “The Celebration of the Fantastic: Selected Papers from the Tenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts”. Sample titles are “The Irrelevancy of Setting”, “Prototypic Horror: The Book of Job”, and “In Search of Solitude: The Fascination with Evil”.Read More»
Comics About Cartoonists: Stories About the World’s Oddest Profession
Editor: Craig Yoe
Publisher: IDW Publishing
This is indeed an odd tome. It is a 229-page anthology of newspaper and comic book cartoonists drawing about their profession. Not “how to draw” lessons, either. Editor Yoe has combed the archives of old newspapers and comic books from roughly 1910 to 1960 and found “funny drawings” in which the cartoonists (sometimes working with scripts by others) have depicted stories about the cartooning profession. The reprinted newspaper strips are usually in black-&-white as they were published; the comic-book reprints are in full, garish color.
Many of the comic-book stories are about cartoonists who draw themselves into their own stories. These range from realistic art – the “Inky” Wells cartoonist who falls in love with his model, from a 1955 romance comic, looks just like comic-book artist Jack Kirby, whose photograph is well-known – to the fanciful – surely funny-animal cartoonist Al Stahl (1958), who draws himself falling asleep at his drawing board and falls into his world of talking rabbits and policeman lions, did not really look like something out of a carnival funhouse’s distorted mirror. Most of the comic-book stories are six or eight pages. Famous newspaper cartoonists Milton Caniff (“Terry and the Pirates”; “Steve Canyon”) and Chester Gould (“Dick Tracy”) are present in one-page promo autobiographies in which they have drawn themselves in the style of their heroes. Bud Fisher (“Mutt and Jeff, 1919) draws himself getting contradictory demands from his editors for six panels (“More Republican jokes; No, more Democratic jokes; Ridicule the Bolsheviks; Lay off the Russians); in the seventh panel he commits suicide.Read More»
Scholastic Discover More: World War II
Author: Sean Callery
Publisher: Scholastic Reference (March 1, 2013)
I’m quickly learning to love the Scholastic Discover More series of books. The grandchildren love them and for me, they are a wealth of information.
In World War II, a visual history of the world’s darkest days, there are plenty of full color photographs, as well as some stunning black and whites and infographic type pages laid out in a way that is appealing to most children. Also provided is a free digital companion book that kids and parents can access either on Mac or PC through Scholastic’s Discover More website.Read More»
Author: Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 7, 2013)
Trust Cat Patrick to write something wild and crazy, told in the most normal of voices. I first came into contact with her work when I read Revived and was completely blown away. When I saw The Originals, I knew I just had to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. The Originals tells the story of three sisters who are not triplets…they are clones. Because their scientist/geneticist mother is on the lam and the FBI is searching for girls of their age masquerading as triplets, they are forced to live a sort of half-life; rather a third of a life. Each girl takes a part of the day and has to be careful in how they wear their hair, clothes, etc. One heads to school in the morning, then rushes home at lunch to switch. The third sister takes over the evening. Occasionally, they switch to accommodate illness or other issues. Needless to say, it’s kind of nuts, but they take it in stride.Read More»
The Gift (Enhanced Ebook Edition)
Andrea J. Buchanan
Publisher: Open Road Media
Kindle ASIN: B006X7ZU2C
This reviews the media-added ebook version of a tale originally released by Open Road Media last year, in which a young woman named Daisy discovers she has electrically charged powers. Managing those powers and keeping them secret has ended up getting her in trouble and shuttled from school to school. Being asked by one of her teachers to help out a fellow student named Vivi forces her hand, as Vivi claims to have a guardian angel who feeds of Daisy’s energy. Eventually Daisy’s best friend gets pulled in, as well as the teacher’s assistant Kevin, to who Daisy finds herself mysteriously attracted. What follows is a mystery of dreams, past lives, and breaking free to build one’s own future. There are really two strong plots here – Daisy, Vivi, Danielle and the past lives dreams mysteries is one, and a girl with electrical powers struggling to have a boyfriend and a normal life as the other. Daisy’s powers, while part of what it takes to get the past lives story moving, feels forced at points though overall its a fun journey.Read More»
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest
Charles de Lint (Author), Charles Vess (Illustrator)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is a fairytale that reads like those old epic stories that tell of someone seemingly ordinary, but who has an extraordinarily kind heart. In the old stories, that was your hero who went on a long quest, filled with adventure, mystery and danger. At the heart of this tale is Lillian, a red-headed girl who loves to run and play in the forest, seeking out fairies and daydreaming under trees. She’s close to the earth and her kindness shows. She has respect for nature, respect for magic and is a lover of tales. You immediately love her and are drawn into her world with the beautiful writing of Charles de Lint, an expert at telling tales. His words paint a vivid and marvelous world full of magic. Charles Vess’ artwork, as always is dreamy, lush and gorgeous. His colors and brushstrokes pull you farther into this world that seems so real. The story makes you feel at home and it also takes you back into your childhood, reminding you of those hours you spent curled up with an old fairytale adventure, being transported into that world.Read More»
Book Description from the publisher:
Tempus Rerum Imperator: Time, Emperor of All Things
1758. England is embroiled in a globe-spanning conflict that stretches from her North American colonies to Europe and beyond. Across the Channel, the French prepare for an invasion ? an invasion rumored to be led by none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie. It seems the map of Europe is about to be redrawn. Yet behind these dramatic scenes, another war is raging – a war that will determine not just the fate of nations but of humanity itself…
Daniel Quare is a journeyman in an ancient guild, The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. He is also a Regulator, part of an elite network within the guild devoted to searching out and claiming for England’s exclusive use any horological innovation that could give them an upperhand, whether in business or in war.
Just such a mission has brought Quare to the London townhouse of eccentric collector, Lord Wichcote. He seeks a pocket watch rumoured to possess seemingly impossible properties that are more to do with magic than with any science familiar to Quare or to his superiors. And the strange
timepiece has attracted the attention of others as well: the mysterious masked thief known only as Grimalkin, and a deadly French spy who stop at nothing to bring the prize back to his masters. Soon Quare finds himself on a dangerous trail of intrigue and murder that leads far from the world he knows into an otherwhere of dragons and demigods, in which nothing is as it seems . . . time least of all.
Be prepared for lush, evocative language that makes you want to linger on the page, hesitant to turn to the next just so you can savor it. Paul Witcover’s prose is poetic and beautiful. I fell so deeply in love with the language, with the construction of his sentences that I almost forgot to read the story. Almost. There is a STORY here. A great one really. One that has you as riveted and extraordinarily fascinated with the workings of clocks.
“The ticking of so many timepieces, no two synchronized, filled the space with a facsimile of whispered conversation, as if some ghostly parliament were meeting in the dead of night.”
The fantastical England Wicote writes of is completely wonderful, an 18th century England that you completely believe in. You could swear you read about the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in a long-forgotten history book and you’ll be scratching your head wondering just where. It is the kind of book that grabs you and makes you a part of its world. It’s clever, intricate and maddening in its twists and turns, as mazelike as the tunnels Quare is led through under the streets.Read More»
Illustrating Modern Life: the Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection
Authors: Michael Zakian – Richard Kelly – David Apatoff
Publisher: Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University
Illustrating Modern Life is the 112-page hardbound full color catalogue of the exhibit, “Illustrating Modern Life: the Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection” at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art located on the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu, California, from January 15 through March 31, 2013. Michael Zakian, the Museum’s art director, says that the exhibit is also a double commemoration: of Pepperdine University’s 75th anniversary, and of the Weisman Museum of Art’s 20th anniversary.
The exhibit presents 75 original paintings by 31 artists, including both well-known names like J. C. Leydendecker, Maxfield Parrish, and Norman Rockwell, and now-obscure popular painters like Harvey Dunn, Coles Phillips, and Sarah Stillwell Weber. Most of the paintings were intended as covers for the most popular magazines of this period such as Collier’s Weekly, Ladies’ Home Journal, Life, and The Saturday Evening Post, although some are fine-art paintings, novel dust jacket paintings or plates, full color advertising art such as J C. Leydendecker’s portrait of a well-dressed man wearing a Kuppenheimer Suit for The Saturday Evening Post issue of October 11, 1930, and a few black-&-white story interior illustrations. There are also several full paintings paired with an enlarged portion to better display its detail.
Zakian says in his Introduction, “American Illustration and the Adventure of Modern Life”, that the four decades from the 1890s through the 1930s, encompassing the Second Industrial Revolution through the Gilded Age, were the Golden Age of American Illustration. The rapid rise of popular magazines during this period of enthusiasm for the future, created a new audience for art—the American public—and a new demand for illustrations. This exhibit, chosen from the original art collection of Richard Kelly, showcases this thesis.
“The best of these artists captured the spirit of the era with infectious enthusiasm, as seen in J. C. Leydendecker’s ‘First Airplane Ride’. This painting, which appeared on the cover of the August 28, 1909, issue of Collier’s, portrays the visceral ecstasy of the bold new experience of flight. A young man and woman engage in the timeless activity of courting while flying in a startlingly new invention: an airplane. Although it was painted just six years after the Wright Brothers’ first successful manned flight, Leydendecker does not convey any fear or trepidation in his painting. Instead he emphasizes the pair’s appealing self-confidence, casting this quintessentially American couple as sophisticated and worldly bon vivants. […]” (p. 8)
Zakian notes that this period also saw the introduction of new artistic and printing techniques, and that the most popular artists adopted to these easily. Whether depicting the latest social styles (Harrison Fisher’s “Graduation, 1903”), modern labor (Edmund F. Ward’s “The Miracle: Men in the Quarry”, showing 1924 stonecutters), historical adventure (Howard Pyle’s “Dead Men Tell No Tales” and N. C. Wyeth’s “The Boy’s King Arthur), or romantic fantasy (Sarah Stilwell Weber’s “Lady With Leopards”), these pictures are dynamic and gaudy, standing out dramatically from the style of popular illustrations before the 1890s.
Zakian’s Introduction is followed by a long interview of Richard Kelly by “illustration scholar” David Apatoff on “Building a Collection”. Kelly started out as a science-fiction fan, and it was many of his favorite s-f artists like Michael Whelan, Tom Kidd, and James Gurney telling him that their inspirations were the popular artists of this “Golden Age of American Illustration” that got him collecting their art.
The Introduction and “Building a Collection” take up pages 7 to 25. The exhibition art fills pages 26 to 106. Brief biographies of the 31 artists plus Zakian, Kelly and Apatoff close the catalogue.
This $40.00 catalogue is bound in hard covers as a sturdy book. John Fleskes, the catalogue’s printer, says in a separate blog that, “All of the works hung in the museum are inside, plus a handful of extra pieces.” The exhibit will end on March 31, but the catalogue “is forever”; an excellent addition to any collection of American fine art or commercial art of the 1890-1940 period.
Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons
Author: Christopher Hart
Publisher: Watson-Guptill Publications
Christopher Hart has been writing best-selling “how to draw” books since the 1980s. Wikipedia says, “His  book, ‘Manga Mania: How to Draw Japanese Comics,’ was the number one art book in the country for an entire year, according to Nielsen Bookscan.” During that time, drawing styles have been getting further and further from the classic Disney style of “cute” cartoons. Consider the popular looks of John Kricfalusi (“Ren & Stimpy”), Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Samurai Jack”), and Butch Hartman (“The Fairly OddParents”).
Hart’s Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons (160 pages) emphasizes how to draw in the exaggeratedly individualistic styles that are “in” at the moment. Like most of Hart’s books, he starts with a classic how-to-draw tutorial in ‘Basic Head Shape’ and ‘Facial Features’. It is an old maxim for humorous cartoonists that you have to know the basic art rules to know how to break them effectively.
It is with ‘Moving Beyond the Basic Head Shape’ (page 41) that Hart starts to concentrate on what the modern public, and the modern art editors and animation directors, are looking for. Samples of Hart’s cheery advice: “Give her a ridiculously thin neck.” “Leaving the circle [the basic head shape] behind, take this same character and fit her with an oval-shaped head. Immediately she becomes quirkier – and funnier, too.” “Make the hair defy gravity.” “Place the ears below the eye line, as if somehow they never grew as the teen grew. I think this is often funnier.” “Do the earrings attach to the earlobes? Nope! They defy physics. Antigravity earrings are great for day wear.” “Notice how the arms of the eyeglass frames don’t even touch the ears. Why even use them? BECAUSE they’re useless – which is funny!” “This [head] shape is based on a modified square. Or maybe a rectangle. Although, it could be a rhomboid. But I don’t know what a rhomboid is. The point is – it doesn’t have to be an established geometric form. Any funny shape will work!”
Contrariwise, Hart warns to avoid excess complexity. “I used to think that you could only create cool cartoons if you used a lot of different angles for the head. […] Actually, I soon found out that […] too many angles detract from the look of a cartoon.” “With eight planes to his head, this version of the same guy is unnecessarily complicated without adding much ban to your buck.”
Hart presents head shots alone from pages 41 to 63. Then he moves on to “Medium Shots: The Best, Most Overlooked Angle”. Other chapters cover “The Universal Body Type”, “Putting Your Characters Together”, “Different Body Types”, “Adding Important Details”, and “Saving the Best for Last: Stuff You Won’t Learn in Art School”. Whimsical examples include the “Dorky Dad”, “1950s Mom”, “Trailer Mom”, “Funny Senior”, and “Mr. Bench Press”.
Each final example is preceded by several increasingly detailed outlines showing how to start with a simple sketch and gradually add to it without making missteps. Hart does not omit appropriate backgrounds. “A finished dresser: very symmetrical, very correct, very boring. […] Here, the drawers are uneven sizes and, yes, they’re also somewhat slanted. Plus, the vertical lines of the bureau expand as they rise. Even the verticals of the drawers are slanted.” A handy Index completes the book.
Hart has written dozens of these how-to-draw books over more than three decades. There is a lot of overlap. But with some exceptions, each of them is aimed at beginning cartoonists who have become fixated on a particular popular cartoon style of the moment – maybe in newspaper comic strips, maybe in increasingly detailed comic books, maybe in TV or theatrical animation, maybe in Japanese cartoon styles – and say, “Wow! I want to draw like that!” Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons is a relatively inexpensive ($21.99) basic primer on how to draw in THIS particular style; a first step for the aspiring cartoonist.
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.
Men Into Space
Author: John C. Fredriksen
Publisher: BearManor Media
The 1950s were, practically speaking, the first decade of television. Popular “everybody knows” knowledge is that the first serious science fiction TV program was Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, from October 1959 to June 1964. Earlier TV science fiction programs like Captain Video, Space Patrol, and Tom Corbett: Space Cadet were for children. Fredriksen, the author of thirty other reference books such as The United States Air Force: A Chronology, points out that earlier TV s-f for adults did exist, such as Science Fiction Theatre (1955-1957). One important but now-forgotten program was Men Into Space, 38 episodes, September 1959 to September 1960.
A major factor that sets Men Into Space apart from all other TV science fiction, then or later, was that it was “hard science” science fiction. Presenting the fictional adventures of astronaut Col. Edward McCauley (played by William Lundigan) in the near future (the 1970s were implied), the program closely forecast the real U.S. space program of the 1960s. Men Into Space built upon the popularization of Lunar and Martian space exploration in the 1950s through books and magazine articles by such experts as Wernher von Braun and Willy Ley, and the “Tomorrowland” episodes of Walt Disney’s TV series. The program consulted closely with the U.S. Air Force as an advisor, and “The Air Force retained supervisory control of scripting and insisted that all episodes depict the American space effort in a strictly realistic vein. No bug-eyed monsters or mad scientists were permissible, so story lines invariably turned on conflict arising from faulty equipment or personality clashes among crewmen.” (pgs. 7-8) Chesley Bonestell, the noted astronautical and astronomical artist who illustrated many popular 1950s articles on space exploration for magazines like Collier’s, designed the space and Lunar sets and the spacecraft for Men Into Space. Guest stars in the 38 episodes, appearing in one episode each, included Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Werner Klemperer, Whit Bissell, James Drury, Gavin MacLeod, and many others who became better-known actors during the 1960s and 1970s.
Fredriksen first presents a general history and overview of the program and its production company, ZIV (Ziv Productions), followed by profiles of the “Cast and Crew”: a lengthy biography of Lundigan, shorter biographies of the actors who played his wife and son, the program’s producer, set designer (Bonestell), and composer, and the real Convair Atlas rocket that was the model for the program’s fictional spaceships. Each profile includes one or more publicity photographs and its own bibliography.
All the foregoing are on pages 1 to 36 of this 314-page book. “Episodes” are the main feature, from page 39 to 291. Each of the 38 episodes is given a usually-seven page profile that includes a still, the episode title, air date, list of actors and their characters, script author, director, technical advisor (a U.S.A.F. officer), and a long (usually five pages) plot synopsis. There are two appendices; a July 2012 interview by Fredriksen of William Lundigan’s daughter, and a photogallery of the program’s few children’s merchandising items. There are six pages of Endnotes and a Name Index.
This is one of those “all you want to know” books about its subject. Men Into Space was a minor program on the list of all the TV science fiction programs there have ever been. But it will always be known for its presentation of “real” or “hard” science astronautics, as distinct from the other programs that featured robots, Earth-conquering aliens, fanciful views of the far future and other planets, cinematic adaptations of prominent literary s-f stories, and the like; including today’s TV s-f which mixes s-f elements with werewolves, vampires, and zombies. Buy wherever there is any interest in Men Into Space itself, in TV science fiction, in TV productions of the late 1950s-early 1960s, or in American history of the 1950s Space Race period.